Time off for children’s illness: ask the expert

I work full-time with 2 young children.  We do have a flexible working policy and as it is a company with 110 employees and I am part of the senior management team. In the main it seems to work. However, recently I have had to take quite a lot of time off due to children’s illness – amounting to approx. 4 days in the last 6 weeks.  I have either worked from home or have taken holiday.  My boss now says its reached an unacceptable level and if it happens again we need to have a ‘discussion’.  Do you have any advice, as I know this will happen again?

All employees have the statutory right to take time off to care for dependants, which includes your children. This is the right to take a reasonable amount of time off during working hours to deal with unexpected or sudden problems and to make necessary long-term arrangements. This should give you time to provide immediate care for your poorly child and to make necessary arrangements for someone else to provide continuing care for your child. This right is to UNPAID time off.

However, you have not so far needed to exercise this statutory right. You have managed to cover by taking holiday (which provides no detriment to your employer, and I would point this out to your boss) or by working at home. It appears that your boss has an issue with this. You need to find out why and demonstrate that you can work at home – set out what you have done when you have been working at home previously.

It appears that your boss does wish to deal with this matter informally, ie by having a discussion with you. Hopefully, during the meeting you can answer any concerns that your boss may have and deal with the issues. Perhaps, you can put this into context, ie how long have  you worked for the Company and how often have you  needed to be away from the office to look after your children in that time?

Your employer should not commence any disciplinary procedures against you in respect of the above and if they do, you should appeal against any disciplinary sanction given to you.

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