Employer addressing me taking day off with sick child

(48 Posts)
solveproblem Tue 04-Dec-12 17:50:22

I've been with my current employer for a year, I have not had any days off sick for myself but a few when my chikdren have been poorly. In this year I've been here I've probably had 5 days off with them.

This month I've had 1.5 days off. My childminder phoned at 3pm one day (I normally finish at 5) and told me my DS1 had been sick so I left work to pick him up.
My husband stayed home the following day with him and then I took a day off with him.

Today I got called in to a meeting where my boss addressed this and said it is putting them in an awkward position, but that he understands that I need to stay home with my children when they're sick.

I said that I was terribly sorry but that I had not had a choice but to stay home, I also explained that me and my husband always share these days equally between us.

He again said that it's "putting them in an awkward position" with me having days off. They will not deduct anything from my wages this time but if this continues we will have to have further discussions.

Now, I know for a fact this will continue, kids are kids and they are going to get sick now and then.

So can anyone please tell me what my rights (and responsibilities) are when it comes to taking days off with poorly children?

solveproblem Thu 06-Dec-12 18:15:08

Thanks for all your replies.

Apparently it was brought up as one of my collegues found it unfair that I was getting "days off".

I mainly work with men and the ones that have children also have SAHM's. I suppose they never have to deal with a situation like this themselves.

The collegue who thought it was unfair also recently found out that I'm on more money than him so he's getting funny about things in general.

Anyway, I'm not going to worry about it any more, my kids will always come first and a job is only a job after all.

It was me who said an hour or two. I used to work in a public sector organisation, and we'd use an unpaid day, but then the part of the organisation I worked for was hived off and sold to a new owner - some sort of private equity company I think. That was one of the changes they made - the argument being that it was a time critical job. You won't be surprised to hear that none of the original staff are still there - just a succession of workers on short-term contacts, hired on an as-and-when basis.

flowerytaleofNewYork Wed 05-Dec-12 16:00:51

Emergency dependents leave would cover a day or two for each illness, (not an hour or two, whoever it was that said that). The number of days per year is specifically not defined in law.

So looking after a sick child for one or two days is perfectly reasonable. Taking a fortnight to look after a child with chicken pox or whatever is not covered under that right, as after a couple of days it is no longer an emergency and you would be expected to make alternative arrangements. In most cases, because most employers aren't completely heartless and wouldn't expect a sick child to be cared for by a stranger, if you make every effort to find someone else to look after them and can't, then taking holiday, unpaid leave or making the time up later is usually ok.

Where it is usually not ok is when (usually) women do all the taking time off rather than taking turns with their partner/child's father.

OP it sounds like you have a good record yourself, and are ensuring your husband does his fair share.

I agree with HermioneE that the problem is probably that your employer is not going to be able to continue to pay you for further days off sick, not that he is planning to discipline you or similar. If he was the kind who would be inclined to discipline in this situation, he would not be the kind to pay you for that time in the first place I'd say. You say yourself he said he understands you need to stay home when your children are ill.

Just for the record, and this isn't directed at the OP especially, having no family nearby doesn't mean you are not able to make alternative arrangements. As far as an employer is concerned, there are emergency nannies available if push comes to shove, so that wouldn't necessarily get you out of having to make alternative arrangements in that situation.

However OP your boss does sound sympathetic so I don't think you're going to have a problem.

Polygon Wed 05-Dec-12 15:48:48

I´m now a SAHM but when I was working, DH and I managed it with annual leave and with compensating by working longer other days. Neither of my children could have managed being left with a complete stranger when they were sick. Our neighbours did get emergency nannies from an agency - one until she went down with the kids´ tummy bug, then the next one until she went down with it - it´s a nightmare!
Having said that, my sister once came across the country on the train to provide childcare - not something that we could have done repeatedly! grin

mycatlikestwiglets Wed 05-Dec-12 10:42:09

I agree with HemioneE and I'm surprised at some of the other responses you've had on this thread.

It sounds as though you need to have a proper discussion with your boss about how to deal with childcare issues when they arise. Perhaps you should be offering to take holiday rather than simply expecting to be given random time off - it's great that you have been able to do this so far but clearly your employer is concerned about the amount, which is understandable. My DS has just had chickenpox so DH and I had no choice but to take some time off to look after him. We managed through a combination of holiday and working from home. If you're proactive with your employer on your options for managing this type of issue they may be more understanding about your situation.

HermioneE Tue 04-Dec-12 21:00:04

From your OP, I think you may be worrying too much here. I read that as your boss saying that unfortunately they cannot continue to be generous with days off when your child is ill, and as/when it happens again, he'll need to discuss with you whether you want to take as unpaid leave or out of your holiday allowance (the two options offered in my experience).

He's certainly phrased it badly as it seems to have come across to you as a bit of a threat, especially with the 'if it happens again...' when, as you say, it's bound to. But I think it may be his wording rather than the policy that's the problem.

Maybe you could ask for clarification on the policy, and explain that you know this will happen again so you want to know in advance what to do that suits both the company and you. That's what I'd do, and as a manager I'd respect someone wanting to help find a solution.

solveproblem Tue 04-Dec-12 20:54:41

Ladymuck; They don't have to get cover for me. We are very quiet this time of year so it did not effect work much at all that I stayed home for one day. The work I missed I easily caught up with the following day.

I have also put in a lot of overtime this year as I have to travel a lot, which I don't get compensated for, but I would obviously not use this as an argument (I'm not going to argue with them at all!).

44SoStartingOver Tue 04-Dec-12 20:52:24

Not trying to sound naive, I do work, but fortunately my dc are pretty sturdy and I am term time only - so not many days are an issue with chidlren illness.

But what are you supposed to do if you kids are sick? I have stayed at home (dd had chicken pox), taken them to work (with a bucket for sickness) - wrong I know, but essential for 250 students that I attend for 2 hours taht day, DH and I have done a half day each with them (not often as he often works overseas, so completely unavailable) , I have worked from home.

But we do not have any family who would be able to look after a sick child. The childminder I use would not accept a sick child. My friends all work too.

is there some service where a professional would care for a sick child - assuming you even wanted to leave a sick child with a stranger?

What on earth are parents actually supposed to do?

Ladymuck Tue 04-Dec-12 20:43:10

I think that it is worth looking to explore with your manager what their most pressing concern is: is it loss of productivity, unfair treatment in comparison with other employees, the cost to them of having to get short term cover for you etc. Certainly if your children have been ill for 10 work days this year, that is unfortunate, and would be a lot ime, and I wouldn't expect that amount of illness to continue.

SuperSaint Tue 04-Dec-12 20:41:36

If my children are sick I have to take annual leave to look after them. I can do some work from home but only if I know I am going to be doing this and take files etc home. If I did not plan it then I don't have anything to do at home so take annual leave. If I leave work early to collect a sick DC I have to make the time up later in the month.

It's annoying but I wouldn't expect them to give me a day off "for free". I think your work are being very generous to have allowed you 5 days off over the last year. I have no family nearby and am a single parent so I have no choice if my DCs are ill. Luckily (touch wood / fingers crossed) they are rarely ill. (I can't believe I've just tempted fate by writing that grin)

sunnyday123 Tue 04-Dec-12 20:41:34

I don't think 5 days is a lot at all all year! In my job people are off a week with a cold! We get 6 months sick full pay and I know people who insist they take their 10 days sick (before they'd go on sick monitoring). I know that wrong but the op is genuinely stuck and I'd be very unhappy using people from agencies for a few days a year.

I'd be inclined to mix it with you being sick. 2/3 days sick a year is nothing in most lines of work. If it were much more frequent its an issue but I'm shocked at your boss for 5 days in a year!

MysteriousHamster Tue 04-Dec-12 20:38:40

I'm really surprised by this thread, I thought employers had to give you time off (unpaid) to look after small children.

I certainly couldn't get childcare for a sick child no matter how hard I tried.

I would just advise you to use holiday or go unpaid or ask to work from home. Let them know you understand it's unconvenient and make sure it doesn't cost them anything.

You can't do much about a sick child. I sympathise. Before my son had his adenoids off he was constantly ill with ear infections, nursery wouldn't take him and I don't have family nearby. Luckily work understood.

solveproblem Tue 04-Dec-12 20:36:21

I might put a request in for flexible working, to be able to work from home on the days they are ill.

Sanityclause, where I've worked it was a few hours to make other arrangements, not days or even one day. I think it says "reasonable time" so employers can interpret that how they like.

In the past, when my children were small, I have paid for an emergency sitter, begged favours from friends, swapped with other mums, and paid local teens. I think you'll have to find a back-up for child are, OP, because five days is a day every couple of months, and that's quite a lot.

Can you make up the time on weekends?

Lougle Tue 04-Dec-12 20:28:59

" calypso2008 Tue 04-Dec-12 20:02:57

Also, you have only been in the job a year? I would be careful. "

No need to scaremonger hmm The OP has completed more than a year's service, so is fully protected (as much as any other employee, at any rate) against unfair dismissal, etc.

sunnyday123 Tue 04-Dec-12 20:25:38
sunnyday123 Tue 04-Dec-12 20:25:21

https://www.gov.uk/time-off-for-dependants/your-rights

Check out this link. It says there is no limit to the time you can have off but usually up to 2 days. After which if you want to stay off longer you can take it as parental leave or annual leave.

Lots of employers dont know parents rights in situations like this- my boss tried to stop me (even personnel didn't know about rights)! It's a national thing not a company policy, although it helps to keep them onside.

Small businesses are especially more likely to be unaware - my husbands company had lots of problems when he tried to argue that emergency leave was not allowed (he's the boss) - it's a grey area but certainly a few days by the gov site.

solveproblem Tue 04-Dec-12 20:23:23

YDdraigGoch; DS had a sickness bug this time and don't think any other family would have looked after him anyway with it being very contagious.

I will look into emergency nannies.

SanityClause Tue 04-Dec-12 20:12:40

DH and I run a small business, and try to be as flexible with staff as possible, but people taking time off to look after sick children has caused us a lot of problems in the past.

It is my understanding that you are not actually entitled to take a day off to look after a sick child. The emergency leave covers a couple of hours to enable you to arrange childcare, not a whole day off to look after your sick child.

You need to make some kind of arrangement to have someone to look after your DC at short notice. There are agencies that supply emergency nannies, if you have no friends or family who could help out.

(Incidentally as an employer, I wouldn't object to the occasional incident, once or twice a year, but we have had someone off a few days every month!)

YDdraigGoch Tue 04-Dec-12 20:03:35

Could you come to some reciprocal arrangement with another family?

I must admit, my Mum used to come and look after our sick DDs. She lived 2 hours away, but would pack a bag at a moment's notice if we needed her.

calypso2008 Tue 04-Dec-12 20:02:57

Also, you have only been in the job a year? I would be careful.

calypso2008 Tue 04-Dec-12 20:02:05

Get childcare and do your job. Do not expect sympathy for phoning in to say you cannot do your job because your children are ill. It is lax and wrong.

Your boss has basically been very fair but is clearly fed up and giving you a warning.

solveproblem Tue 04-Dec-12 19:52:09

NaiceDude: What is a VPN connection?
In theory I would be able to work from home as long as I can access my emails and the servers.
The software I am using has got a USB-key so would be able to use it at home if I bring the USB home.

I love my job and do not want to take time off but when the kids are ill I don't have much choice (other than to share the time off with my husband which I do).

What do other parents do? Do everyone have family members that are not working and are able to look after poorly children when necessary?

Ladymuck Tue 04-Dec-12 18:48:57

They could start their disciplinary process.

Emergency dependents leave is a statutory right I believe, so they have to offer that, though as has been pointed out it is a right to have unpaid time to sort out childcare, not to actually provide it yourself.

solveproblem Tue 04-Dec-12 18:24:21

If I wouldn't be able to make alternatice arrangements afet two days, what would happen? Can they sack me?

Just read through the handbook, it doesn't mention dependants leave.

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