Need time off to look after a sick child?

As we approach winter, it’s getting pretty cold and dark out there. Cough and cold season is upon us. Around 12.7 million school days were missed due to illness in autumn term 2014. That’s not great news for working mums and dads juggling work and childcare. Round about now, many will be wondering how on earth they can look after a sick child while holding down the day job.

However, employees do have rights to help them deal with minor emergencies like this. Dependants Leave can help you deal with unexpected incidents concerning your child during school time and which disrupt their normal care arrangements (i.e. their falling ill). Annually, about 1 in 4 working parents take advantage of this right. Let your employer know why you need to look after your child, and how long you expect to be away. It is an unpaid statutory right, but a lot of employers will pay you while you are off work (ask or check your contract to see if yours is one of them).

Some employers (often as a result of negotiation with unions in the workplace) offer ‘carer’s leave’ of a number of paid days off a year for just these kinds of eventuality. Again, check your contract to see if you are entitled to this, how much and at what rate.

And remember that both parents can take time off to look after sick children, and fathers are encouraged to do so if that is the most sensible way to share the burden – it shouldn’t be assumed that mothers are the default carers.

See our Family-friendly Work section for comprehensive information about all your statutory rights as parents and carers.