Trying to care for sick children while working

For working parents, a sick child can throw their entire day off and often parents are put in the position of choosing between their work and their child’s health. While the Family Medical Leave Act covers workers when they have a serious health condition, need to care for a seriously ill family member or care for a new born child, the federal law does not provide protected leave time to care for sick children.

The result is that parents have to create multiple plans when a child becomes sick sometimes relying on family, friends and sometimes baby sitters when they are not able to take the needed time away from work to care for their children. Of course parents always want to take time off to care for their beloved children but parents can risk the loss of their job because of too many absences.

Research shows that children recover the quickest when they are in their parents’ care. The Family Medical Leave Act provides up to three months of unpaid leave time for individuals with serious health conditions and to care for seriously ill family members; however, the law does not offer any legal protection for parents who need to care for mildly sick children. Only one city, San Francisco, requires employers to offer workers specific sick time to be used to care for sick children. Parents everywhere else have to rely on their personal networks of family and friends.

Parents who are married have the benefit of turning to their partner but single parents cannot always go to their partners or former spouses. Even when parents are able to work from home a sick child needs attention and work can become an afterthought. As one mother puts it, “It’s a nightmare. Even when you have a husband, it makes everything impossible.”

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Workzone: Being there for sick offspring costs many workers their jobs,” Ann Belser, 4/10/11


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