Can Your Boss Make You Pay for Child Care When You're Working From Home?

One mom on Reddit complained that her company was requiring that she put her 1-year-old daughter in daycare during the pandemic—and working parents everywhere are enraged.

Working parents know all too well that although stores, schools, and child care centers may be reopening, things are still far from normal during the pandemic. Just because we've all gotten used to wearing our masks, social distancing, and maintaining a new routine doesn't mean that any of this is easy. Let's be clear: things are not great.

Take Reddit poster u/EmptyXzero who recently took to a Mommit thread to explain her work predicament. The thread's title: "Job requiring I send daughter to daycare." Are your red flags going up yet? Same.

The poster goes on to explain that her job is requiring that she figures out some form of child care for her daughter—who is 1 and was previously being watched by grandparents. Due to the pandemic—and the grandparents being older and considered higher risk—this is no longer an option. The mom was called into a meeting with higher ups at the company who told her that "having a child at home and a full-time job is not sustainable" and that she would have to update them on what she was doing to get her daughter in daycare.

Midsection of working mother examining documents with baby girl at home office
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As a working mom myself, my rage hit a new level. Before we even get into what parents are legally entitled to during COVID-19, can we all just agree that this is morally wrong? You've got a parent who's trying to make things work—saying she's meeting all of her company's goals, signing on earlier, and staying on later—who's scared to send her child to daycare during a pandemic. Why should she be forced into paying for child care if, as she says, she's still meeting her work priorities?

The flexibility that many parents were afforded during the early days of the coronavirus has dwindled as it became clear that things aren't just going to magically go away. The pre-COVID lives we were living probably won't be recognizable again until there's a coronavirus vaccine. Companies have no choice but to resume work, but the personal lives of so many employees are still up in the air—with parents juggling work, the kids, home life, school, and everything in between. And this doesn't even include the essential workers or single parents who have no choice at all when it comes to work and child care. For some, working from home isn't an option. Daycare is literally the only option for many parents to continue working and provide for their families. One result of all of this: Moms have been leaving the workforce in droves to take care of their children—and their careers could be set back by decades.

The sad truth? Whether or not it's actually legal for companies to force child care on its employees is a bit murky. Experts say that this Reddit situation is in sort of a gray area, and it really depends on where the poster lives and what the exact specifics of the situation are. But legal or not, it's flat-out wrong.

This pandemic has been going on for seven months and there needs to be more support from the government as it continues. While there has been an expansion of federal parental leave policies due to COVID-19—you can learn more about that here—parents and caregivers could still only be looking at up to 12 weeks of partially paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). And that's if they're eligible. Even if parents can get three paid months off from work to care for their families, what are they supposed to do after that point? COVID-19 isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

"This makes me so mad," one Redditor commented. "I get it, kind of, but wtf. This is a pandemic. We are faced with a potentially lethal virus for which there is currently no cure, and it's still frowned upon for women to prioritize their families."

So as we all scream into the void that none of this is fair, all we can do is ask companies to show a little empathy for the realities their employees are facing. With life as we know it upended, everything else has got to shift in response. It's time to show working parents—and especially moms—a little more flexibility. The future of working women depends on it.

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