Parents Fear Sick Kids Will Cost Them Their Jobs

Missing work to take care of sick kids is a significant challenge to the work-life balance of parents. In fact, it poses such a challenge that 1 in 3 parents say they are concerned about losing their jobs or pay when they have to stay home to take care of their sick children, new research has found.

"The results of this poll clearly indicate that illnesses that lead to exclusions from child care are a substantial problem for working parents," said Andrew Hashikawa, a clinical lecturer in pediatric emergency medicine at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich., which conducted the research."Improving employee benefits related to paid sick leave appears to be important for many parents."

The researchers found that almost half of parents say they had to miss work in the last year to take care of their sick children, while one-quarter of parents say they had to miss three or more days. An additional 31 percent of parents say they don’t have enough paid sick time to cover the days needed to take care of ailing children.

Matthew Davis, director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, estimates that 40 million workers in the United States lack proper paid sick leave benefits. As a result, workers are finding ways around health care needs. In particular, 8 percent of parents admitted to taking their children to an emergency room instead of a primary care doctor because it was more convenient and they were afraid of missing more days of work.

"Training child care providers to make safe and appropriate rules about when kids have to stay home could greatly reduce the burden on families," said Davis, an associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and an associate professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. "We hope these latest poll results will spur national discussion about the importance of providing workers with the tools they need to be productive, but also care for their little ones when they are not feeling well."

The research was based on the responses of 310 parents with children under age 5 that are in child care facilities. The research was conducted by GFK Research for the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital as part of the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit of the University of Michigan Health System Division of General Pediatrics.

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