As more parents return to the office, some face an impossible choice

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Updated: Jul. 3, 2020 at 5:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As more parents return to the workplace, some are facing an impossible situation as they struggle to find care for their kids or face repercussions at the office.

And government workers aren’t immune to the problem.

Hawaii News Now spoke anonymously to one employee at the Department of Health who was working from home for three and a half months, but then had to go back to the office.

If she didn’t, she was told she’d have to take emergency partially paid leave.

“Quite frankly, I feel angry because I was able to do my job from home with kids and I was working effectively and it also makes me feel really discouraged,” the worker said.

She said that child care providers were either filled up, the hours weren’t adequate or they were too expensive, but says the department told her lack of child care was not a reason to continue teleworking.

"We are responding to public health emergency on the ground, but within our own ranks we are treating parents as if it doesn't matter that there is no emergency," said the worker.

The Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women says it's received similar complaints from women in multiple government agencies and private companies.

“We know that women have gone to their employer and said I have absolutely no way to get child care. I’m on 10 different waitlists. Please let me tele-work continue to tele0-work and the answer has been no and they quit,” said Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of the Commission on the Status of Women.

The state Department of Health says tele-work is allowed on a case by case basis.

In a letter responding to the commission’s complaint, Gov. David Ige said the state has had polices for tele-work and flexible hours for years and has directed a safe and strategic transition back to work.

He added because departments and divisions are so diverse “it would not be prudent to mandate tele-work and flexible hours for employees.”

Next month, public schools resume classes but parents still might find themselves in a jam.

The state said that schools will be offering a blend of face-to-face and remote learning. Each school principal will decide which model to select.

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