Allie: Nurseries and friends are not always keen to have a sick child.
Get to understand the company policy and attitude to family-friendly working and time off should your child be unwell. Good communication and contingency plans are vital. Team work can also play a vital part if you have a hands-on job such as nursing or retail, where covering shifts for each other can be part of the solution.
Annabel: From a boss’s point of view, this can be a very frustrating time. One the one hand we all know how difficult it can be when someone at home, particularly a child, is ill. On the other hand, the boss has deadlines and workloads to balance, and needs to have some idea what is happening. There are a lot of imaginary ‘rights’ and imagined ‘no go’ areas.
Allie: A mother’s instinct is to be with her child. “My child comes first” is something all mothers think. However it is easy to confuse the child’s needs with your own, and end up deciding that you must be with your child at all times.
Annabel: One of the things that mystify me is that women who were keen to have equality and did not want to be discriminated against as mothers or potential mothers often respond to their child’s minor illnesses by saying “I must be there because I am a mother”. If you have a partner, your boss is going to want some understanding of why you are in the front line and not them. They have an equal right to time off for dependants leave, etc.
Allie: The type of jobs both parents have is a consideration. It may be that one parent has more work flexibility than the other so that person will take the ‘hit’.
Annabel: The legal situation is a long way from what most parents imagine are their ‘rights’. Employees are entitled to apply for unpaid dependants leave if they need to:
(a) provide assistance on an occasion when a dependant falls ill….
(b) make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill…
(c) To deal with an incident involving their child at school
Allie: So what does providing assistance actually mean and how much time off can a parent take?
Annabel: The idea of dependants leave is that it is short term unpaid emergency leave. It is not designed to enable a parent to stay home and care for a sick child, so much as to arrange for the care. Not more than a couple of days are normally allowable
Allie: Not everyone can afford to take unpaid time off. The parent who earns the least is likely to be the person who takes the most unpaid dependants’ leave. Many women do take time off to take care of their children, saying that they themselves are sick. But this puts her in the position of lying in order to claim sick pay – which is a sacking offence for most employers.
Annabel: Most employers struggle with covering sick leave as well as dependants’ leave. Very few organisations have enough staff to cope well when a few are absent. Depending on what your job is, you may want to talk to your boss about temporarily changing your hours of work (so you and a partner can share looking after a sick child), working from home (but be clear about when you are working and when you are looking after your child), making up the hours later (a form of flexi time), or even using some of your annual leave.
Do you have a query that you’d like Allie or Annabel to answer? Follow this link and post your question for them – http://balancingthebump.com/contact/
Posted by on 18/11/2011 10:38:22
Jackie Groundsell is known as the queen of women's business networking lunches - the Connector. She supports thousands of small business owners through her events and lunch-time meetings