Study: Working Parents Fear Job Loss When Kids Get Sick

A sick child poses a tough choice for working parents, a University of Michigan survey finds.

As cold and flu season looms, working parents are worried about how to care for their sick kids without getting on the wrong side of the boss, a new study says.

It’s a solemn choice, a terrible choice that families have to make all the time.

One-third of parents are concerned about losing pay or their job when they have to stay home and take care of a sick child, according to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, released Monday. And 31 percent said their employers do not provide enough sick days to cover the care their children need when they’re ill.

“When a child is sick, parents must either take time off from work, make other child-care arrangements, or try to get immediate medical care in order to comply with exclusion policies for the child-care setting,” the report said. “One-half of parents with children in child care report that finding alternative or backup child care for their sick children is difficult.”

“Parents make the choice between taking care of their sick child—and who doesn’t want to take care of a sick child?—and keeping their job and being able to bring in the money to support that child,” said Ellen Galinsky, president and cofounder of the nonprofit Families and Work Institute (FWI). “It’s a solemn choice, a terrible choice that families have to make all the time.”

FWI’s 2012 National Study of Employers found that while 87 percent of the organizations surveyed said they allow “some” employees to take time off during the day to attend to important family or personal needs—such as care of a sick child—without loss of pay, only 55 percent provide “all or most” employees with the same benefit. The study surveyed more than 1,100 employers with at least 50 employees, 25 percent of which were nonprofits.

“Some employers don’t even have sick time,” said Galinsky. “And you’ll see that…if you are a low-income employee, you’re much less likely to get [sick time].”

Do associations do enough to help employees caring for sick children? What policies does your organization have in place?

(TMG archive photo)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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