Need Time Off Work to Care for a Sick Child? Here Are 5 Steps to Take

Here’s an ironclad fact: Children get sick. Unfortunately, this doesn’t only occur after work hours and on weekends. A U.S. Census Bureau study revealed that 39 percent of working mothers (and 3 percent of working fathers) must take time off work to stay home with their sick kids.

Whether your son or daughter is ill, injured or managing a behavioral problem or chronic disease, asking for time off work can be stressful. If you’re struggling to balance your job commitments with caring for your under-the-weather child, following these steps can help you cope:

Step 1: Do Your Homework

If you’re not familiar with your employer’s policy regarding taking time off work to care for sick children, you might want to review the company website or employee benefits materials.

Step 2: Meet With Your Supervisor as Soon as Possible

  • You can start by explaining that your child is ill and unable to attend day care or school, and that you will need to stay home. Being straightforward about the challenges you’re facing and emphasizing your commitment to both your home and work responsibilities will demonstrate that you take your job seriously.
  • Make sure you’re clear about how much time off you need. Must you leave early twice a week, or are you facing a three-day hospital stay because your child needs surgery? Will you require two hours weekly for your child’s speech therapy, or do you anticipate last-minute emergencies that might crop up?
  • It’s a good idea to acknowledge that your absence could be a concern to your supervisor, so ask for advice about handling the next few days or weeks.

Step 3: Have a Plan in Place to Cover You at Work

  • Your manager will want to know how you intend to get your work done if you are away from the office, so think about how you could delegate your duties. If you’re in charge of a large project and need to leave suddenly, can someone replace you? Perhaps you can arrange this with a coworker beforehand so you can assure your boss that nothing will fall through the cracks.
  • Could you work from home if your child is ill?
  • If you know you’ll need time off work every Monday, for example, ask your boss in advance if you can change your schedule accordingly, so he or she can plan around your absence.

Step 4: Have a Backup Plan in Place

If possible, line up backup child care, especially if you anticipate many absences from the office over an extended period of time. Do you have relatives or close friends who can step in if you can’t leave work? Can your spouse sometimes accompany your child to appointments when you can’t?

Step 5: Reach Out for Help

It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. You likely have many colleagues who have needed to take time off work when their kids fell ill. A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center discovered that most working parents (56 percent) have difficulty balancing their job responsibilities with their family obligations. TotalSource’s LifeCare® Work-Life Employee Assistance Program gives you access to resources that can help you balance work, life, finances, family and other challenges.

It can be worrisome when a child is injured or ill, but with proper communication and advance planning, you should be able to come up with a plan that works for both you and your employer. By knowing your company policy, being proactive and transparent with your supervisors and reaching out to coworkers and loved ones for help, you can make the best of a stressful situation.

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