In any job, employees will miss occasional days of work. Some businesses can just live without someone in that position for a short time. In child care, that is simply not an option. We have teacher-child ratios and quality of care standards that have to be met, so we have to have substitute teachers when one of our regular staff members is unavailable.
Substitutes are tricky. Ideally, you will have a couple of part-time employees who can extend their hours for a day or two to cover for their co-worker. Alternately, you may have an employee (or a few) who have agreed to work on-call. In a smaller program, these people are more difficult to keep on staff as they do not usually get work frequently, but some are willing to stay for the opportunity for a regular position when someone leaves. One other option, if there is one in your area, is a substitute agency. You can contact them when you have someone out for the day and, ideally, they can provide a substitute to cover. Of course, these agencies are significantly more expensive than paying your own staff member, but they may be a viable option if you don’t have anything else.
Regardless of how you secure your substitute, you have to make sure the person knows what you expect of their employment, even if it’s just for a day. We do this through a Substitute Agreement Form. This form is a combination of our Employment Offer, Job Description, Standards of Conduct, and Statement of Understanding. We don’t need those full documents for a substitute, but components of each of those documents are important. We need to make sure this person understands that their employment is at-will and not guaranteed for any specific time or hours. We ensure that the individual is qualified for the position for which we are hiring them. We explain payroll procedures so there are no misunderstandings. Finally, we go over the expectations for the job itself; how they are to guide and supervise children; keep them safe; interact with them; interact with the parents and other staff members; and use the program’s resources. Making sure our expectations are clear from the start helps prevent future misunderstandings and gives our temporary employees the tools they need to be successful.