No childcare for week-long conference

I am a single working parent. My role does involve conferences and occasional nights away, none of which have been an issue in the past. I have a week-long company meeting soon and I do not have overnight childcare for that week as my mum is away. I have other relatives I could leave her with but as she has not stayed there alone before I would not like to leave her there a full week as I feel she would not settle and this is a concern. I have said I would be prepared to attend for two days, possibly longer if she appears to have settled. My boss has spoken with HR and has suggested I find a nursery near the office and book her in for a week and she stay in the hotel with me. I am not comfortable leaving her in a childcare setting that I have not vetted and she has never visited. Furthermore the hotel the company use is situated on a business park, it is very geared to business guests and is not child friendly. We would be limited to our hotel room in the evening.  My boss obviously considers this to be a practical solution to my problem, but it does not take into account my daughter’s welfare. Can I refuse to do this?

The closest protection that would help you is that relating to time-off for dependents. This is often referred to as time-off for emergencies and is usually used when a child is ill. It also covers reasonable time offbecause of the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant. Your employer might argue that your mum’s holiday is not unexpected, but you can say that it clashing with your week away is. The problem comes with whether a whole week is “reasonable” time off and because time off under this provision is unpaid.

As a mum of a three year old I recognise your concerns about leaving your daughter with relatives she does not know as well as your mum and in an unfamiliar nursery setting. Perhaps one solution would be at least to research whether there are any suitable nurseries nearby willing to take your daughter for a week – most wouldn’t be happy with this arrangement as they are not set up for short-term care. You could then return to HR on the basis that this proposal cannot work.

Ultimately, you will need to negotiate a solution with your employer that works as best it can for both them and you. Falling back on the time-off for dependants is not ideal, but it may be your only option.

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