Son sick continuously and work worried about absences: ask the expert

I returned to work last November after maternity leave on a 3-day week (I have a job share partner who does the other 2 days). My son goes to nursery on the days I work. Since he’s been there he’s caught every cold/tummy bug etc going meaning and I’ve had to take time off work when he can’t attend nursery. I’ve taken holiday each time. I’m now in a position where the man I work for has complained to HR about my absences and he has even said my work isn’t up to scratch (although I haven’t had anything to back this up). I was wondering where I stand. They’re telling me I need to sort out support for the days when I can’t go to to work when my son is ill. My support is my mother who has just had an operation and cannot help at the moment. We’ve put our house on the market to try and move closer to other family members to increase our support network, but obviously this will take time. Work know this and are saying they don’t want me to think of it as a gesture towards the firm.

Pursuant to section 57A and 57B of the Employment Rights Act 1996 employees, whether they are part time or full time have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off to deal with a family emergency. This includes situations where a child falls ill.

If an employee is refused the right to time off, suffers a detriment or is dismissed because she has exercised her right to take time off to deal with a family emergency then she can bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal.

I am therefore surprised that your manager has complained as you have taken holiday each time you were absent. You are entitled to take your holiday and, provided you have taken it with the appropriate authority, then your manager should not have cause to complain.

If your manager is now raising performance issues, then you should be entitled to know what they are so that you can appropriately address them.

I suggest you arrange a meeting with HR to explain that this is not a position of your own making, that you are using your holiday when you need time off, you have the right to take time off for family emergencies. You should state that you are concerned that performance issues are being raised now when nothing has been raised previously and, if there is an issue about your performance, you want to know what it is so that you can address it.

Comments [1]

  • Anonymous says:

    I’m not much good on the HR front, but I can help with your child. Colds are associated withh confusion and too much going on… lots of rapid changes. I’m wondering if changes with you going back to work, and mum being unable to help after her operation and then having to find someone else has unsettled your child. I’m sure it’s put a lot of stress on you too. Think about what you can do when you are with your child to help them feel reassured and closely connected to you. 

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