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As temperatures begin to drop and the cough and cold season falls upon us, the TUC is reminding working parents about their rights to take time off work to look after their children when they are sick.

Illness accounted for two-thirds (64.2%) of the 19.8 million days missed by school-age children in the Autumn term last year, but many parents are unsure how to balance their working commitments with looking after their children when they are ill, says the TUC.

The TUC has issued a reminder of what your rights are 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 boss 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. Check your employment contract, company handbook or ask your union rep if you’re entitled to this.
• 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.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “For most parents it’s a daily struggle trying to juggle work and childcare, which becomes even more complicated as children succumb to seasonal colds and illnesses. Sensible employers will give their staff time off to look after their children when they’re poorly, or to make alternative arrangements for their care.

“Many unions have negotiated paid compassionate or carers’ leave in workplaces around the UK to help parents with situations like this. A change in the law so that all working parents are entitled to take paid time off work when their child is ill and their usual childcare isn’t an option would make a real difference.”