When Parents Don’t Have Earned Sick Time, Kids Go to School Sick

Cross posted from the Coalition for Healthy Families and Workplaces Blog.

When parents do not have any earned sick days, many times it the children who suffer. Without the flexibility to be able to take time off to care for a sick child, many parents have no choice but to sometimes send their kids to school sick.

Two-thirds of children live in a home where their parent (in a single parent household) or parents work. If a child is sick, it is unlikely a parent could care for the child without missing work. Yet 53 percent of working mothers and 48 percent of working fathers do not have any paid sick time to care for an ill child. The choice is made more difficult when 1 in 6 workers have reported that they have either lost a job or been threatened with job loss for using time off for personal or family illness.

Parental fears of losing their pay or their job affects their children in many ways. Not only are parents unable to care for their children when they are sick, but many children do not tell their parents they are ill or hurt as they know their parents cannot miss work.
Robbie Bickerstaff described how her son Eric, then age 7, got hit by a car on the way home from school but chose not to tell her for fear she’d lose her second-shift job if she didn’t go in to work. Later an older sibling called her to say that Eric was crying because his arm hurt from being hit by the car and she had to take him to the hospital. When Robbie informed her boss, he was adamant: “Leave and you’re fired.” her pleas didn’t move him. She did leave; she was fired. Eric turned out to have a broken arm.
No parent should have to make the choice between caring for an ill or hurt child and receiving their pay or keeping their job.


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