This blog concerns a common issue of staff in a childcare setting being friends with the parents.
One of the ways to be aware of any conflict of interest is to ask on the application form whether the candidate knows any staff, Directors or parents who attend the Nursery in a personal capacity, and if related to advise of nature of relation.
If you take over a setting or you suspect a new friendship then a post employment Conflict of Interest Form could be used annually for staff to advise the employer of any potential conflict of interest. This could be friends, family, god children, relationships with suppliers, teachers, Ofsted inspectors etc. Be careful though, one client used this form and found out her staff member was having an affair with one of the Dads!
You often discover that staff are friends with some of the parents. This can’t be helped. You serve a local area, you employ local people and staff and parents may well be of a similar age. Don’t panic!
Social media is one way that this may come to your attention. You can discourage staff from ‘friend requesting’ your parents through your policies. You can also ask parents not to ‘friend request’ your staff as it presents a conflict of interest and can cause difficulties. You can add this information to your registration forms.
Where existing ‘friends’ and ‘family’, ‘children of new lovers’ are identified consider whether that the staff member should be the child’s key worker and consider whether they should work in different departments to the child concerned.
If you know that staff are ‘friends’ with your parents there are several things you can do:
- Keep a watching eye. It’s normal and just because people are friends doesn’t mean that they don’t understand about professional boundaries.
- Talk to staff at staff meetings about the potential risks of friendships with parents. Remind them that a parent’s motives may not be all as they seem, tell them that you don’t DBS the parents! One poor Nursery Nurse we know of was attacked by the Dad who gave her a lift home after babysitting.
- Talk to your staff about confidentiality. You can use a separate confidentiality agreement or include in your contracts of employment. Make it clear that parents will sometimes ‘pump the staff for information’ especially when they see them out of work, remind them of the need to keep confidential information, confidential and the consequences (gross misconduct dismissal) if they don’t!
- Have a social media policy, much of the ‘friendship’ will happen online, make sure you have it covered from an employment perspective.
If you need any help with any aspect of HR in your childcare setting, please don’t hesitate to call us on 01527 909436.