Q. Can I take time off work when my child is sick?

As Covid cases surge in schools, it is important working parents know their rights to take time off work to look after their children when they are sick.

Taking time off work when your child is sick: know your rights

Coronavirus infections among children increased in England in September after schools reopened, according to a study by Imperial College London. 

Many parents of children who have tested positive are trying to juggle their working commitments with looking after their children. 


Here's what rights you have as a working parent: 

  • Statutory time off work to care for a dependent: As a working parent you have the right to take reasonable time off to deal with a domestic emergency, which includes when your child is ill, and you need time to make alternative arrangements for their care. Around a quarter of working parents use this right each year. Talk to your employer as soon as a problem arises, giving them a reason for the absence and how long you expect to be away. Your employer may pay you, but they don’t have to. 


  • Paid compassionate or carers’ leave: Some employers provide paid compassionate or carers’ leave. Typically, this is around five days per year, to deal with situations like looking after poorly children. This is usually a ‘discretionary’ allowance meaning your employer doesn’t have to pay you for this time away from work but check your terms and conditions as each employer varies. Also, it is worth noting, from an Equality Act perspective, this policy should be applied in a consistent and equitable manner, so if people in similar circumstances have been released and paid, then this should be applicable to you too.


  • Sharing the burden: Remember that both parents are entitled to time off to look after ill children, so it should not be assumed that mothers will drop everything while fathers carry on as usual. Dads can request time off work to look after their children too. 


  • Flexible working: some employers will have policies on flexible working, for example flexitime so you can juggle your hours to manage your care. If this is an option, get some advice before making a request as a request can only be made once in a 12-month period. It is always advisable to be in a position where you can mitigate any worries and concerns your employer may have as this makes your application more likely to succeed.



Sensible employers will give their staff time off to look after their children when they’re sick, or to make alternative arrangements for their care. 


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