Masters Thesis Spotlight: Children in the Workplace: Policy Recommendation for Florida State University

The COVID-19 pandemic caused global shutdowns of schools and daycares, leaving parents to balance work and new childcare options. As schools and daycares reopened, the burden persisted; they either opened at a limited capacity, benefitting few families, or opted for a remote environment, keeping children at home. The childcare and working responsibilities left parents with difficult decisions. Parents were forced to leave their job, adjust their schedules, or bring their children to work. The latter revealed a significant policy gap at Florida State University (FSU). The 2020 incidents of children in the FSU workplace require policy-oriented action that focuses on eliminating the confusion about when it is appropriate for children to be brought into the workplace by employees.

As of 2021, FSU has no official policy addressing the presence of children in the workplace. While this gap has existed prior, the pandemic shined a light on the need to clarify the policy. The lack of official policy fosters minimal accountability and presents the university with liability should an accident involving a minor occur. Children in the workplace can also hinder productivity and introduce disruptions. This research project proposes policy recommendations that eliminate confusion, promote liability, and offer structure for the University workplace.

To ensure that an effective policy was created, the researcher conducted interviews with personnel working in Human Resources and Environmental Health and Safety at Florida State University. The interviews were used to collect internal information on a breadth of topics, including the current University guidelines about minors in the workplace, previous incidents that justify the project, and the needs of the university for the new policy. Supplementary to the interviews, the researcher analyzed the official policies addressing children in the workplace at four universities. Policy analysis provides comprehensive, successful examples that inform the author’s policy recommendations.

The interviews reveal that the only reference to minors in the workplace is in the “FSU and You” Employee Handbook. The information is more so guidelines than official policy. Most jarring is the language, which is confusing and fails to provide definitions, exceptions, enforcement, and reporting information. Interview testimonies demand a new policy that uses common terminology, references related policies, outlines exceptions and enforcement, and provides information for hazardous areas. In addition to developing an official policy, the researcher highlights the need for training once implemented.

Using the information sourced from the interviews and analysis of other policies, the researcher creates a clear, comprehensive policy draft for the university defining the situations when children are permitted in the workplace. In most circumstances, the policy emphasizes that employees should work with their supervisor to arrange an alternate schedule or, if necessary, a leave of absence to avoid minors being brought to the workplace at all. The few approved exceptions include a minor participating in a supervised or sponsored activity which has received prior authorization from the person responsible for the facility being entered and a signed waiver from their parent/guardian prior to entering potentially hazardous areas, such as laboratories; an employee bringing their child to “Bring Your Child to Work” Day; or if the employee has extenuating circumstances and receives prior approval from their supervisor and department head. The researcher’s final recommendations are as follows: Implement the policy proposal after close review by the appropriate FSU officials, announce the policy implementation to employees, maintain the policy and revisit it regularly to ensure it stays up to date, and inform new employees of the policy and where it can be found during onboarding. Following these recommendations will ensure both employees and supervisors are well informed of the new policy. The recommendations also provide clear steps to curb instances of minors in the workplace, making Florida State University a more safe and enjoyable work environment.

Katelyn White is a graduate from Florida State University with a Masters in Public Administration and a Graduate Certificate in Emergency Management and Homeland Security. Katelyn has worked in Emergency Management and is also involved in several Human Resource related projects. To learn more about Katelyn click here. Katelyn’s thesis was approved by their committee and will soon be available for public consumption.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused global shutdowns of schools and daycares, leaving parents to balance work and new childcare options. As schools and daycares reopened, the burden persisted; they either opened at a limited capacity, benefitting few families, or opted for a remote environment, keeping children at home. The childcare and working responsibilities left parents with difficult decisions. Parents were forced to leave their job, adjust their schedules, or bring their children to work. The latter revealed a significant policy gap at Florida State University (FSU). The 2020 incidents of children in the FSU workplace require policy-oriented action that focuses on eliminating the confusion about when it is appropriate for children to be brought into the workplace by employees.

As of 2021, FSU has no official policy addressing the presence of children in the workplace. While this gap has existed prior, the pandemic shined a light on the need to clarify the policy. The lack of official policy fosters minimal accountability and presents the university with liability should an accident involving a minor occur. Children in the workplace can also hinder productivity and introduce disruptions. This research project proposes policy recommendations that eliminate confusion, promote liability, and offer structure for the University workplace.

To ensure that an effective policy was created, the researcher conducted interviews with personnel working in Human Resources and Environmental Health and Safety at Florida State University. The interviews were used to collect internal information on a breadth of topics, including the current University guidelines about minors in the workplace, previous incidents that justify the project, and the needs of the university for the new policy. Supplementary to the interviews, the researcher analyzed the official policies addressing children in the workplace at four universities. Policy analysis provides comprehensive, successful examples that inform the author’s policy recommendations.

The interviews reveal that the only reference to minors in the workplace is in the “FSU and You” Employee Handbook. The information is more so guidelines than official policy. Most jarring is the language, which is confusing and fails to provide definitions, exceptions, enforcement, and reporting information. Interview testimonies demand a new policy that uses common terminology, references related policies, outlines exceptions and enforcement, and provides information for hazardous areas. In addition to developing an official policy, the researcher highlights the need for training once implemented.

Using the information sourced from the interviews and analysis of other policies, the researcher creates a clear, comprehensive policy draft for the university defining the situations when children are permitted in the workplace. In most circumstances, the policy emphasizes that employees should work with their supervisor to arrange an alternate schedule or, if necessary, a leave of absence to avoid minors being brought to the workplace at all. The few approved exceptions include a minor participating in a supervised or sponsored activity which has received prior authorization from the person responsible for the facility being entered and a signed waiver from their parent/guardian prior to entering potentially hazardous areas, such as laboratories; an employee bringing their child to “Bring Your Child to Work” Day; or if the employee has extenuating circumstances and receives prior approval from their supervisor and department head. The researcher’s final recommendations are as follows: Implement the policy proposal after close review by the appropriate FSU officials, announce the policy implementation to employees, maintain the policy and revisit it regularly to ensure it stays up to date, and inform new employees of the policy and where it can be found during onboarding. Following these recommendations will ensure both employees and supervisors are well informed of the new policy. The recommendations also provide clear steps to curb instances of minors in the workplace, making Florida State University a more safe and enjoyable work environment.

Katelyn White (pictured below) is a graduate from Florida State University with a Masters in Public Administration and a Graduate Certificate in Emergency Management and Homeland Security. Katelyn has worked in Emergency Management and is also involved in several Human Resource related projects. This post is a summary of Katelyn’s thesis, written by COSSPP Blog Intern Dara Begley. Katelyn’s thesis was approved by her committee and will soon be available for public consumption. To learn more about Katelyn click here.

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