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Parenting v Performance – managing the needs of working parents

Posted on: November 28th, 2019 by Ginny Hallam

Any working parent knows that balancing work and children can be a tricky business at the best of times. When their child falls ill they rely on childcare support, unpaid time off, sickness absence, home working or holiday.

We’re hearing more and more that you’re struggling to balance support for working parents with sustaining performance. Here’s out guide to your rights and options when an employee’s child falls sick…

Know your rights – you have to allow the employee reasonable unpaid time off if:

a. help is needed where the child falls ill;

b. they need to make arrangements for the care of an ill child;

c. they need to deal with disrupted care arrangements;

d. they need to deal with an unexpected incident involving the child at school;

e. (and clearly in the event of the child’s death).

The employee doesn’t have the right to unpaid time off to:

a. deal with an appointment at their home (such as a delivery or plumber);

b. take their child to a medical or dental appointment;

c. take their child to and from school/nursery;

d. care for the child (beyond when they initially fall ill and once they have had time to arrange for their care).

Balanced approach – it’s all well and good knowing your rights, but managing an employee with a sick child can be complex. You’re likely to be trying to support them, drive performance and deal consistently with everyone within their team. We’d suggest:

a. having a clear policy to deal with these situations and following it to the letter (to avoid inconsistency creeping in);

b. ensuring that the employee continues to tell you when they are likely to return and agreeing what is a reasonable amount of time off in the circumstances;

c. confirming what will be communicated with the team so that they’re aware of the support you’re giving to the individual and also to them;

d. avoiding homeworking in the circumstances unless you’re certain the employee is able to do their job;

e. keeping a record on your people system of absences taken so that you can track trends and levels of absence (click here for more info about our system, Intelligent Employment Hub);

f. asking for evidence the child is sick if you begin to doubt how genuine the absence is;

g. dealing with inappropriate absence as a disciplinary issue;

h. avoiding payment for absence (even if absence is just for an hour or so) if you doubt the genuineness of the absence or it’s becoming too frequent.

Other rights – bear in mind that if the child is disabled the employee has additional rights that you’ll need to consider. Also remember that there are other statutory rights such as shared parental leave and statutory parental leave that could support both you and the employee in the appropriate circumstances.