Mass support for paid sick leave for children

A Mumsnet survey finds huge support for extending statutory sick pay to cover children’s illness.

Sick Child


Ninety per cent of parents of primary schoolchildren say they would support extending statutory sick leave for parents when their children are sick, with only six per cent opposed, according to a Mumsnet survey.

The survey of more than 1,000 parents conducted in partnership with Harriet Harman MP found that 88 per cent of parents in paid work are routinely being forced to use their annual leave or take unpaid leave when their children are sick.

Of parents who reported having taken time off work to care for a sick primary school aged child:

  • 39% had taken holiday/annual leave
  • 29% had taken paid leave
  • 29% had taken unpaid leave
  • 10% had reduced hours or dropped work
  • 7% had taken sick leave
  • 2% had left their job

Almost a third of parents (29%), and more than half of lower paid parents (52%), are taking unpaid leave to look after their children, with lower paid parents twice as likely to take unpaid leave than those on higher earnings (26%). Almost four in 10 parents had taken holiday/annual leave to look after sick children. Higher paid parents were twice as likely (31%) to take paid leave to look after sick children compared to lower paid parents (15%).

The situation is worse for single parents who were almost 60% more likely to take unpaid leave than parents living with a partner (43% compared to 27%).

12% of parents in the survey, most of whom were mothers, had reduced their hours, dropped work, or even left their job to deal with having sick children. 10% had reduced their hours or dropped work due to caring responsibilities related to caring for a sick child.

Justine Roberts, founder and CEO of Mumsnet, said: “Most economically developed countries have a system of paid leave to provide short-term care to a sick child at home. Parents in paid work are losing desperately needed pay and holiday leave, and in the worst cases leaving work altogether to care for their sick children. Anecdotally we see on our forums that many parents have little choice but to send children into school sick, which obviously has repercussions for other pupils and school staff. The impact on workplaces of having parents who are stressed about arranging childcare and torn about their ill child shouldn’t be underestimated. We need provisions in law that give parents a little bit of breathing space to care for their children.”

Harriet Harman, Labour MP and chair of Joint Committee on Human Rights, said: “Public policy is completely out of date. Mothers are working now and not at home to look after a sick child. You can’t leave a young child on their own when they’re sick. But there’s no right to take time off, let alone sick pay. Of course this hits hardest at those on lower paid jobs. The forthcoming Employment Bill is our chance to insist that we put this right.”

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