Bayside Council has said none of its staff have been banned from working from home because they have children.
Last week, a report in the Sydney Morning Herald said Bayside Council staff had to sign declarations that they would not have primary care responsibilities for child/children aged seven-years or below while working from home.
"Yes, Bayside Council's standard Remote Working from Home Policy has a requirement to sign such a form," a spokesperson said.
"Signing the form does not preclude staff with young children from working from home, they just have to ensure that children under seven are adequately cared for while they are working at home, as they would when attending the office.
"This is Council's standard Remote Working from Home Policy. This Policy was openly consulted with Council's Staff Consultative Committee including with representatives from all NSW Unions covering local government employees.
"Council acknowledges that the current "Stay at Home" orders is not the norm.
"During Covid last year, and again during this current "stay at home" order, Council has been supportive of all staff and of the NSW Government's directive to "Work from Home."
"Currently more than 200 staff are working from home. No one has been banned from working from home because they have children.
"To assist families, Council has made the working from home hours totally flexible over a seven-day period. Staff can vary their work hours to accommodate the needs of their children, or juggle work and child-care with a partner. Council doesn't want to see a baby or young child injured or neglected while a parent is pre-occupied with work.
"Staff who may be struggling have been urged to reach out to their Manager or their HR partner to discuss their individual arrangements.
"Council has not received one complaint from a staff member, including the anonymous source who contacted the Sydney Morning Herald.
"Staff, who have no work as a result of the COVID lock down have all been allocated work or assigned to another area to help out."
Bayside mother-of-two, Heidi Lee Douglas has proposed a number of solutions for Bayside Council workers who are also juggling parenting commitments.
"As mothers and carers who are also working from home juggling parenting commitments during lockdown, we believe Bayside Council is out of step with other workplace cultures around the world, which have rapidly evolved to better support the difficulties parents face in lockdown," Heidi said.
The founder of Peaceful Bayside residents groups that was started last year in response to the problem of car hooning, Heidi said her group wants to find a way to support the workers of Bayside Council.
She and Bayside business leader, Joyce Campbell are running for Council in the local elections on September 4 as independents under the Peaceful Bayside banner.
Joyce was the general manager of a large international logistics company when COVID-19 hit in 2020, and specialises in workplace engagement, communication, leadership and workplace culture.
She highlights the potentially negative consequences of Bayside Council's working from home directive to staff and outlines solutions that the Council can implement to ensure the needs of their workers in lockdown are met and their mental health is considered.
"Some children will already be feeling a sense of isolation from being separated from their friends so asking the children not to interrupt their parents while they are working will only exacerbate their current state of mind," Joyce said.
"Some children crave the contact and connection with their friends or family whereas others are content to spend time to themselves. The psychological impact on the children can be very distressing.
"As with children, the same can be experienced with adults in a work from home environment," Joyce said.
"Some are motivated working in an office environment being surrounded by people, some are the opposite, they are more motivated working from home.
"Has Council conducted a survey asking their employees about their preference? It's not that they can change the working from home situation but it would provide them with important feedback.
"Having this information would provide them with important feedback that enables them to assist the team members that they need assistance coping and provide the necessary support for them rather than implementing processes that will put them at further risk of becoming more stressed.
"Since the beginning of the pandemic there are many companies regularly surveying their employees, asking about their "happiness at work score". Has Bayside Council kept up with the latest measures of keeping their employees engaged?"
"We must also remember that there will be some employees who are single parents or one income families," she said.
"What support is being offered to parents who are now experiencing difficulties be it financial or mental health?
"Did Council explore other possible solutions, e.g. flexible times, could some of their employees complete their work outside of normal hours? Could some work be redistributed that allowed for flexible work hours to be implemented? Is it possible to allow different shifts that may also assist the community? Was any research conducted by the leadership group on what the likely impact would be on employees and their families?
"It would be relevant now for Bayside Council to conduct a survey with their employees on the impact that these decisions and processes are having on their current engagement satisfaction level with their employer.
"Bayside Council leadership should be assisting people who are having issues being productive at home through appropriate training."
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