Time off is parents’ second biggest concern when kids are sick

Research found 15% of parents reported not getting paid while their child was hospitalised - ©Drazen/Adobe Stock

Having to take time off work is parents’ second highest concern when their child is in hospital, according to research from MetLife UK, an insurance and employee benefits provider.

Nearly a fifth (18%) of parents indicated that time off work was their biggest concern after the child’s health.

The next concern was having to tell their boss that they can’t work (14%), followed by having to use annual leave (8%) and reduced income (7%).

Read more: Frontline workers unable to afford sick days

Speaking to HR magazine, Lou Campbell, programmes director of occupational health service Wellbeing Partners, said: “In our in-house counselling sessions, we hear regularly that parents' mental wellbeing suffers from the additional stress of having to take time off work when their child is ill.

“When workplaces are able to offer empathy and flexibility for employees around these difficult times, we hear first-hand the goodwill and loyalty expressed by staff members towards their employers.”

Lindsey Doe, managing director of Vivup's FamilyCare, added that having a child hospitalised is stressful no matter what the circumstance. 

She told HR magazine: "Having an employer that you know will support you – whether giving time off, or providing budget and care for other siblings – removes one barrier when trying to manage in a crisis.

“For an employer, getting the right support in place not only helps to prevent the loss of key and valuable talent, it also ensures that recruitment teams hire the best staff.

"Employers need to ensure from the outset that family care and the wellbeing of their employee is ingrained in the culture of the business – not just in a policy but, most importantly, how they react and support people.

Doe shared her personal experience of how a supportive employer can be vital.

She added: “Having experienced a child hospitalised with sepsis, working for an employer that wholeheartedly supported my family meant I could focus on my daughter with no worry or fear around my job.”

Read more: Legal-ease: Time off for dependants

MetLife UK’s survey also highlighted 15% of parents were not getting paid by their employer while their child was hospitalised.

Beth Bearder, legal director of Halborns, told HR magazine that parents have the statutory right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off for dependants, if the child is under 18. She added that “employers should also be aware of potential discrimination risks in these circumstances if the child is disabled.

“Whilst parents don’t have the right to be paid in these circumstances, if they suffer other less favourable treatment because they need time off to attend hospital with or care for their disabled child, arguments of discrimination by association could be made, i.e. the parent was discriminated against because of their disabled child.”

The survey of more than 2,500 parents focussed on parents with children under the age of 23 and was conducted by Censuswide.