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Childcare obligations

(13 Posts)
ThePerUnaBomber Fri 07-Feb-14 13:40:11

*NB also posted in Legal*

My manager has just asked me to put in place "more resilient and robust childcare arrangements" as I had to take a half day last week due to childminder D&V illness.

I had initially taken the time as annual leave (which I was under the impression I had to) - until my manager brought this up with me - first verbally in a meeting, and then in writing after I had a little look on our intranet and discovered I was legally entitled to take that sort of day as "special paid leave" when I am faced with an unavoiable childcare emergency.

Other info: last calendar year I took 6.5 days' annual leave to cover preschool DS' sickness; his father and I are not together, so the bulk of the care falls to me. His father took 1 day off and paternal grandparents covered 2 other days as DS was very sickly - possibly as he had not previously been amongst other children. I work on those days, as evidenced by my email output. I also have no performance issues on my review, which was done in December.

I work in a fairly senior role in a large government department; I am the only one of my peers to have school age children; the rest of the people doing my job are either childless or their children are grown (think 15-20 year age gap between me and them).

My question to you all is twofold: has she any right to ask me to put in place "more resilient and robust childcare" at all? Secondly: Given I have a very flexible and rarely ill childminder (3 days in 2 years) who covers well past contracted hours, late dinners, overnights as needed to accommodate my work, in addition to the occasional help from DS' dad and grandparents and the fact that my DP has stepped in to assist a couple of times, is there anything more I can reasonably be expected to do when either DS or the minder is ill?

Thanks all, look forward to reading your thoughts.

redskyatnight Fri 07-Feb-14 13:49:22

I suspect the issue is with you taking annual leave at the last minute to cover your child's illness. Your employer does NOT have to allow you to do this.

You are correct that you can take emergency leave to make arrangements if your child is taken ill - however this is just that - to cover the emergency. You would be expected to use this time to put other childcare arrangements in place.

I guess that your employer is saying that you can't keep taking annual leave to cover your child's sickness. This seems a bit harsh for half a day, but maybe he fears there will be more (like last year).

flowery Fri 07-Feb-14 15:30:35

Well, she's pushing it a bit getting specific about your childcare arrangements, they are not her concern directly.

What is her concern is whether the emergency time you are taking off is reasonable, and whether you are making reasonable efforts to sort out alternatives.

The fact that you and the DC's father don't happen to be in a relationship doesn't lessen his responsibilities in terms of this type of thing, and often when employers get a bit unhappy about the amount of child-related emergency leave someone is taking, it's not necessarily about the amount, it's about whether they are taking more of the burden than the other parent's employer. Frequently this happens with women. "Reasonable" is the key, and even if the number of times your DS has required emergency care is high, this is not likely to be unreasonable unless you are not make reasonable attempts to find alternatives, and are not sharing this responsibility with his other parent.

The amount of time you are taking is quite a lot, so that is why it's coming up.

Sounds like you are allowed to take paid leave for some of this which is generous, so that's good. There's no obligation for an employer to allow this type of leave to come out of annual leave rather than being unpaid leave.

Frusso Fri 07-Feb-14 15:40:58

You are also able to take parental leave. www.gov.uk/parental-leave/entitlement

flowery Fri 07-Feb-14 15:54:11

Parental leave doesn't cover this type of thing.

ThePerUnaBomber Fri 07-Feb-14 15:57:51

The difficulty I have is that DS' dad does not live or work near us on weekdays - he's in London during the week and we are 2 hours away.

I took 5 days' parental leave to cover the childminder's holiday, which they were not keen on either. I became worried I was running out of days to take given DS' illness levels - if I were ill myself, surely they couldn't say "you need to take steps to stop yourself being ill".

Is there a legal basis to asking me to put other care in place when DS / the minder is ill? If I'm taking annual leave to cover the odd day here and there where I can't get immediate cover (for example when DS was ill over a long period, his dad did one day and grandparents the others), and working during that time, with no recorded performance issues, surely it's discriminating against me for being a single parent - which I can't help being.

AlpacaLypse Fri 07-Feb-14 16:02:55

Completely off topic, I just want to say your user-name is one of the funniest and cleverest I've seen on heresmile!

Since I am self employed I have absolutely no useful knowledge to add, however I do think the next time the childminder is on holiday, DS's father should be the one to take time off if necessary.

EasterHoliday Fri 07-Feb-14 16:07:35

In terms of more robust etc arrangements, can you sign up to a local nanny agency who will provide emergency at home cover when your child / cm is unwell?

flowery Fri 07-Feb-14 16:15:52

"surely it's discriminating against me for being a single parent"

Thing is, your relationship status is not their concern.

It's all about "reasonable". There's no legal basis for interfering in exactly what your childcare arrangements are. There is a legal basis for raising concerns if it is felt you are taking more time off than is strictly necessary or reasonable.

If the childminder is on holiday, for example, DS's father ought to cover half of that. So if they see you doing the bulk of the emergency care and covering the childminder's holidays all yourself, that's why they are getting a bit funny about it.

If DS's father being 2 hours away means he can't cover 50% of the illness emergencies, he should cover more of the holidays to balance it out.

flowery Fri 07-Feb-14 16:17:01

"if I were ill myself, surely they couldn't say "you need to take steps to stop yourself being ill"

Well, yes. If they thought you were being off ill more than strictly necessary and weren't taking reasonable steps to prevent it, by visiting the doctor or whatever.

redskyatnight Fri 07-Feb-14 17:11:08

It's not discriminating against you as a single parent. Plenty of couples with much less help than you seem have. Your company is potentially going about it the wrong way, but they are basically saying that you can't keep taking annual leave to cover your child's illness and need to have a contingency plan. You list a huge number of people who seem to be around to help, but yet you took 6.5 days annual leave to cover your child's illness. So, actually your childcare backup plans are not as robust as they could be.

WholeNewProblem Fri 07-Feb-14 18:26:10

Wasn't the Unabomber a terrorist?

Anyway, I think it isnt unreasonable for your ex to travel back 2hours to look after DS in an emergency situation - he would just have to travel the night before. My son's grandmother lives about 90 mins away and we just have to be very good at forward-planning if we feel he is coming down with something. Maybe you could cover the first day of illness but forewarn your ex that he might need to come back at short notice to cover the next day?

Also, have you thought of recruiting a local ad-hoc nanny or babysitter who might be wiling to step in on these occasions. We had a retired lady who was able to do this. Use him/her a few times to build up familiarity when it isn't an emergency, then you will feel comfortable putting this arrangement in place when situations arise.

Good luck with it all.r

janey68 Sat 08-Feb-14 08:44:12

I agree with the suggestion to find some back up care so that you're not having to take time off for things like the cm's holiday or illness. I agree with the others that this isn't a single parent issue per se... Couples who are together have exactly the same dilemma if there are no relatives around to step in, and it's a case of dividing things equitably. It's not your employers problem that your child's father lives 2 hours away. He may not be with you any more but he's still his sons dad and should be stepping up and covering half or the cms holiday etc .

At the end of the day, 6.5 days off in a year for unexpected child's illness is a lot; I would be questioning that level of absence.

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