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Caught cold

Don’t panic about work when your child’s ill
Douglas Beattie, Friday, December 11th, 2015

Many parents well know the stresses and strains of having a child too ill to go to school when mum and dad need to be at work.


This need not (and should not) be the case – as the TUC is helpfully pointing out. The union organisation is reminding people that they have a legal right to take ‘reasonable’ time off work when their child is under the weather.


It’s a point well worth making given that illness accounted for the vast majority of the millions of school days missed every term by children around the UK.


Reasonable time off


Yet it’s thought that as many as three quarters of working parents do not take advantage of this despite parents being allowed the time and space needed to deal with a domestic emergency (and that includes caring for poorly kids).


As Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, says, “For most parents it’s a daily struggle trying to juggle work and childcare which becomes even more complicated when children succumb to seasonal colds and illnesses.


Sensible employers


“Sensible employers will give their staff time off to look after their children when they are poorly, or to make alternative arrangements for their childcare.”


It’s also the case that some employers will pay you for this absence, but they do not have to.  If you are unsure about whether you will be paid for such an absence from work it may be worth checking your employment contract or speaking to a union rep.


Both parents are entitled to time off to look after ill children, so it shouldn’t be assumed that mothers will drop everything while fathers carry on as usual. Dads can request time off work to look after their children too.


The charity – Working Families – is also concerned that many parents are unaware that they are allowed to take time off, or how much.


As Will Hadwen from the charity explains there’s not a clear understanding of what constitutes ‘reasonable’ time away.


“If you take a couple of days off a year because your child is sick or has to be collected from nursery or something like that, then that’s probably perfectly reasonable,” she says.


“It’s reasonable for an employer to bear the burden of someone being off at short notice; it’s intended for emergencies and the idea is that you return to work as soon as possible.”


Seek advice


However, as Hadwen says, should your child be sick regularly some employers may take this as a sign of something which is unreasonable.


“If you are going to need more than a few days off it’s best to seek advice as soon as possible,” she notes.


Experts also point out that it’s a good idea to speak to your boss when a problem arises in order to let them know how long you plan being absent.


For more information about parental rights at work ring the Working Families helpline on 0300 012 0312 or email advice@workingfamilies.org.uk



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