The SFA Board of Regents has approved the Children in the Workplace policy that was introduced in the summer of last year. It has since been edited and reviewed, and was ultimately approved before the Fall 2019 semester began.
According to the policy, the purpose is to “Support the university’s commitment to fostering a healthy balance between workplace obligations and family.”
The policy was introduced because SFA previously did not have a policy to regulate on employees bringing children to work during working hours.
Dr. Judy Abbott, Dean of the College of Education, was one of the first to talk to HR and legal counsel on the matter.
“I inquired… about policy related to children in the workplace and used examples of incidents that had occurred and were occurring within PCOE (Perkins College of Education). Because there was no policy, discussions with HR and Legal Counsel included reviewing similar policies at other institutions and considering the development of a policy here at SFA,” Abbott said.
Abbott explained that in the summer of 2017, employees frequently had young children at their desks for several hours each day.
“As an educator, I know that young children deserve attention from parents, guardians or caregivers,” Abbott said. “When the young children of these employees needed attention, this distracted the employee from completing his/her work. This kind of frequent distraction from the duties of the employee’s position is not productive or acceptable.”
However, the university did not have a policy to place limits on children in the workplace.
“Supervisors found it challenging to place limits on employee behavior/actions and when some supervisors did place limits on employee behaviors/actions related to having young children at his/her desk, some employees pushed back, requesting a reference to policy,” Abbott said.
Lorretta Doty, director of university human resources, said that after receiving complaints from multiple levels of different departments, managers and staff, she agreed a policy was necessary. Doty emphasized that SFA is not banning children on campus, but that the policy will serve as a management tool.
While drafting the policy, Doty researched children in the workplace policies at other universities. Common trends she saw included children being exempt from university activities that were designed for kids and circumstances related to safety.
“As stated in the policy, our intent is not to manage from HR, but to provide management with the tools they need to manage their employees,” Doty said.
Doty said that managers can use discretion when it comes to children in the workplace.
According to the policy, “The presence of the minor child cannot disrupt the workplace.” The policy however, does not define a disruption. Doty said the reason for this is because one disruption may not be a disruption in another department.
Doty explained that if a university employee brings their child to campus during working hours, the employee’s manager can use their discretion to decide if the child is a distraction or disruption to the employee or to the work environment. Non-disruptive children may stay with the guardian. If the child is a disruption, the manager can ask the employee to remove the child from the workplace and will be supported by the university with the new policy.
Once the policy was introduced and ultimately approved, employees on campus were upset and claimed that the university wasn’t being sensitive to childcare expenses.
“The institution understands that childcare can be a significant expense and is an ongoing need. But childcare is the responsibility of the parent or guardian; it is not the responsibility of SFA to provide childcare for its employees,” said Abbott.
“SFA does provide employees flexibility with their sick/personal leave (a federal/state benefit) to request leave to meet family needs. SFA does provide supervisors the authority to allow for flexible work-hours based on the needs of employees and the demands of the specific job/work. SFA does provide employees the opportunity to request that childcare costs be withdrawn pre-tax on their monthly paycheck. But SFA does not provide childcare to all employees; this is NOT a benefit at this institution. Parents of young children who are employed at SFA are responsible for finding childcare outside of their work environment,” Abbott said.
In response to the complaints about childcare expenses, Doty said she has had a similar experience many years ago.
“I would like to say that people have put forth there is an affordability issue that they need to bring their children to work because they don’t have childcare,” Doty said.
“I wasn’t empathetic to people’s financial strain. I worked at A&M when my children were small. My oldest child was three. I was paid very low wages.”