In the workplace, there good ideas, bad ideas, and ideas that make you scratch your head.
Reading a recent article in Time about bringing babies into work, I was hard-pressed to place it other than in the third category. The article cites a new "institute" called the Parenting in the Workplace Institute as saying that over 70 companies allow babies in the workplace. Obviously, given the numbers of companies out there, it is just a tiny fraction.
The obvious question that arises for a employment law blog is: Is there any legal guidance in Connecticut about this issue? The answer is, not really.
For employers, it is important to understand the great amount of flexibility an employer has to set policies and procedures. Banning children from the workplace is one of those rules. While there may be a safety reason associated with some rules (you don’t want little Max running around a manufacturing floor), an employer may have a simpler reason — keeping the workplace a "work" place.
That being said, suppose an employer wanted to go ahead with such a policy, are there any considerations for such a company? The answer is yes.
Too often, employers allow these types of actions to occur on a ad-hoc or individual basis. From a legal perspective, that only creates more confusion and fails to set forth reasonable expectations that should be set. Questions to consider:
- Is there an age limit or a time limit?
- What about meetings?
- If the employee has a business engagement, does the parent expect others to "fill in"?
- Are there expectations about what behavior is expected from the children?
- Can the parent bring in a crib?
- If the employee does not have a closed office, are they going to be allowed in cubicles?
- Are certain jobs just "off limits" for having kids around?
While some may argue that a parent would "use their common sense" in bringing a child into work, the sad fact is that each person is different with a different set of expectations. Setting up a set of ground rules to follow (that can be adapted and updated as needed) seems a way to try to make it work.
That said, employers should exercise caution in going down this path. Besides the legal issues in play, co-worker morale and office productivity will no doubt be affected to. Sticking to "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day" may just be the safest bet. Or the employer can offer day-care or emergency day-care services close by to make it easier for some parents. The employer can also offer telecommuting as well. And of course, following the rules regarding breast-feeding in the workplace is a must too.
However, your workplace could look something like the following video, in which case, you’ve got bigger issues to worry about than establishing a policy.