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What do you do when baby is sick and you have noone to help?

(77 Posts)
BabyBrainMom Fri 20-Sep-13 18:21:24

My husband and I are working and had to take time off (2.5 days each) to care for our baby, as she had a cold and could not go to nusery. That happened two weeks after she started nursery and we are concerned as with this rate (and as we are told to expect more of this) we will have no holidays left.

What are our statutory rights as working parents when baby is ill. Find the work environment unsupportive sad

ModeratelyObvious Fri 20-Sep-13 18:24:27

There should be something in your contracts or employee handbooks about dependants' leave, it's usually unpaid.

A week off with a cold is a lot. Did your nursery insist or did you just feel happier that way? I never kept mine off with colds.

rockybalboa Fri 20-Sep-13 18:24:55

Surely a cold isn't an excludable illness? I'd send mine to nursery with a cold. Anyway, have a look in your contract as I suspect you'll have a right to 'family leave' or similarly worded but it is likely to be unpaid.

WidowWadman Fri 20-Sep-13 18:27:32

Echoing what the others say - mine are kept off with infectious diseases such as vomiting and diarrhea or chicken pox, but as long as they're not seriously unwell a cold is no reason to keep them at home.

BabyBrainMom Fri 20-Sep-13 18:29:32

We sent her to nursery in beginning and she was crying non-stop and had no food nor drink and the nursery called us as they were concerned, we were very worried for that and decided to care for her at home after that sad Nursery said she must be very poorly and nursery fairly new for her, se is also a light sleeper and could not get sleep she needs there

IrisWildthyme Fri 20-Sep-13 18:29:53

The first couple of months of nursery it's perfectly reasonable to keep a child off nursery with a cold as if she doesn't feel like she's in a secure and familiar place AND feeling poorly it's too much. However, once she is used to the place I wouldn't keep her off for a cold any more. Babies do get every bug going when they are at nursery and keeping them off nursery every time would indeed use up all the annual leave you have and all the unpaid leave you can afford! After she's settled in, only keep her off if she has vomitting/the squits (can't spell diahoear!) or something massively infectious like chicken pox, and let nursery cope with the runny noses!

Theincidental Fri 20-Sep-13 18:30:14

The law says you can have reasonable emergency unpaid leave on the event of a breakdown in childcare, but you are only supposed to use it to find and arrange a new provision of child care, and not to care for the child yourself.

Most employers are reasonable about a day or two, but no more.

I think the assumption is that you can offload your child to a grandparent or friend who doesn't work.

It frankly sucks when your employer is not supportive and the law is sadly not on your side either.

So sorry you're in a difficult situation. I've been there and left the job in the end as it became so difficult.

ModeratelyObvious Fri 20-Sep-13 18:31:38

Ok. You won't have to take a week every time she has a cold - as it's so new for her I can understand why you and they were worried.

Ds2 has had almost no sick days from nursery in 3 years. Ds1 had chicken pox but apart from that just the odd day.

You might have just been unlucky!

Maplestrirrup Fri 20-Sep-13 18:35:18

In my experience using holiday and unpaid leave has been the only way to cover this situation. It is far from ideal, but that is how the cookie crumbles in our house and employment contracts!
We had a run of sickness with the DCs a couple of years ago with colds, sickness bugs, ear infections etc etc, which was nothing major health wise, but it did eat a lot of our annual leave up, but there was nothing we could do about it.
Have you checked if your employer offers any additional leave for working parents-I think you would be very lucky if they did.

LIZS Fri 20-Sep-13 18:35:42

how old is the baby ? I fear you may be in for a rough winter if she is under a year, starting nursery and only meeting some viruses for the first time. Do you have an intranet with the leave policies ?

BabyBrainMom Fri 20-Sep-13 18:38:19

she is just one year now... No intranet on policies but can check next week

flowery Fri 20-Sep-13 18:43:16

I don't think anyone makes assumptions about people's emergency childcare provision.

OP you are entitled to reasonable unpaid emergency time off for dependents so you don't need to worry about using up your holiday.

TheIncidental what additional legal provision do you think there should be, out of interest, if you feel dependents leave is the law not being on parents' side?

BabyBrainMom Fri 20-Sep-13 18:48:00

Was only checking if there are any rights on the matter for working parents e.g. certain paid leave allowance to care for a child or allowance to work from home while caring for baby... Good to have unpaid leave but we can only just meet month's end with nursery costs...

TiredFeet Fri 20-Sep-13 18:49:27

I used to work from home if ds was ill when he was younger. He used to have impressively long naps if he was ill, and then I would keep an eye on emails and then work late into the night to make up the hours. I was/am lucky to have a very accommodating (public sector) employer though!

I wouldn't panic too much, my son hasn't actually picked up many bugs from nursery at all, I don't think he has missed more than a few days each year due to illness.

ModeratelyObvious Fri 20-Sep-13 18:51:12

I don't think there's any government right to paid leave. Ideally your employer is reasonable about taking annual leave at short notice or making time up if possible (eg when DS1 had chicken pox, DH and I split it and then whoever was working got home promptly so the other could get a couple of hours done at least.

BabyBrainMom Fri 20-Sep-13 18:51:36

Hope dd would not either, all new to us at moment and with no family living closeby hard to manage...

Theincidental Fri 20-Sep-13 18:52:21


I just think it's archaic for the law to presume there is a non-working adult who can suddenly look after a sick child, especially when the people a sick child needs the most are the parents.

We live a in society where we are now more geographically separated from our extended families, where there are many more single parents and less stay at home parents, and where adults are expected to work for many more years when they may previously have retired.

I think there should be some protection for parents for children under five, or that the law should be change to remove the onus from seeking out new childcare when a child is sick, and instead leave it to state that a parent is simply allowed reasonable and unpaid time off to look after a sick child. Reasonableness could therefore be tested in law and/or defined by a company.

ModeratelyObvious Fri 20-Sep-13 18:55:32

It is possible to hire an agency nanny to cover sickness though. Financially tricky, but possible.

Xmasbaby11 Fri 20-Sep-13 19:25:09

Hi OP. I feel your pain - DD was the same when she first started nursery - lots of colds and viruses. The first 4 months were awful. At that age a cold is a big deal and if they are miserable you have to be home with them. I can't work from home (teacher) but wouldn't have been able to anyway as she needed a lot of comfort.

We also have no family willing to help and both work full time. My work were very supportive actually and gave me 3 weeks off in total with full pay. AFAIK there are some family days (paid) you can use for sickness and after that I think it would be annual leave and then unpaid leave.

It really does get better after the first few months so hope you can get through it xxx

flowery Fri 20-Sep-13 19:57:38

The law doesn't presume anything about anyone's childcare arrangements. confused

Reasonable unpaid leave is exactly what the law already states, and reasonableness has already been tested in law. You may think it would be reasonable to allow longer, but tribunals have taken a different view when interpreting the legislation.

Parents also have the ability to take up to 4 weeks a year unpaid parental leave, as well as obviously maternity, paternity, adoption leave, and have the right to request flexible working. Protection for parents in work has never been better so I think describing emergency unpaid leave as archaic is a bit of a stretch tbh.

Giving parents the legal right to take longer off unexpectedly would be an enormous problem for many employers and would be counterproductive as employers would seek to avoid employing parents where possible, thinking that they could be off for a month with no notice at any point.

I do understand the difficulties, but in terms of whether the person happens to be single, or the persons parents are not local, or both parents work making things more difficult, these things are not the employers concern. It could certainly be argued that introducing emergency dependents' leave in the first place was a reaction to the changes in society you describe, as it is not old legislation.

BabyBrainMom Fri 20-Sep-13 20:15:04

Guess if childcare was cheaper, parents would have been very grateful for the unpaid family leave... Getting that leave and still pay for a nursery must be impossible to manage for some families sad

Theincidental Fri 20-Sep-13 20:22:27

I'm not suggesting the purpose of a change would be to elongate it, but to change the reason for giving the emergency leave.

Currently the emergency leave is granted to find alternative childcare.

I am suggesting it is changed to say for a parent to look after their child.

Reasonableness regarding the duration would be a matter for testing.

At the moment, the law is assuming that there will always be someone else who is non working to care for a child in an emergency. This is simply not the case in this example, or mine.

Paid for childcare provisions won't take a sick child with, for example chicken pox. The parent has no right to emergency leave to care for them in this example. So who should?

That's why I think it's wrong.

Unexpected Fri 20-Sep-13 22:07:30

TheIncidental, emergency leave is NOT granted simply in order to find alternative childcare. For starters, it applies to dependants who could also be a spouse or parent, for instance. Many parents are able to return to work after a day or two without any requirement to find emergency care anyway.

As Flowery said, there is absolutely no assumption that there is always someone non-working who can look after the child, although that is very often the most likely option for parents to try. However, the leave could just as well be granted to arrange, e.g., for an emergency nanny to come to your home (who will take care of children with chicken pox in many cases).

Theincidental Fri 20-Sep-13 22:21:22

"Your employer may pay you for time off to look after dependants but they don’t have to. "

That's from the government website and here's more:

"You’re allowed a reasonable amount of time off to deal with the emergency, but there’s no set amount of time as it depends on the situation"

It is implicit here that this type of leave is to deal with the emergency and not to look after the child, so my point stands.

I have had this tested as a point of law btw, so I know it's not bullshit.

And for anyone outside of a major city... I doubt there's any such thing as an emergency nanny service.

flowery Fri 20-Sep-13 22:26:06

The law is not assuming anything about anyone's childcare!

Emergency leave is for an emergency regarding ones dependants. That is all. It is vague precisely because it is impossible to define exactly what is an emergency.

If you are not particularly wanting emergency leave to be for longer I am unclear what would be achieved with a separate emergency leave for parents which is not achieved by the current emergency provision for dependants generally? confused

It is not for anyone's employer or for any tribunal judge or for any policitian to solve everyone's individual childcare challenges and to set out what solution is available to parents of children with chicken pox.

Back to reality, the first few days of chicken pox would be obviously an emergency involving dependants. Thereafter, most employers would not in fact sack someone for not turning up, but would allow holiday or further unpaid leave, as long as they were satisfied that the employer had made reasonable efforts to resolve the problem in other ways.

There is no way any policitian or tribunal judge is going to think its reasonable to expect employers to give indefinite time off at no notice to parents with sick children, and the length of time is surely the only issue here?

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