Nearly half of UK workers have taken unpaid leave to care for sick children

sick children

Parents are having to take unpaid leave from work or use up their holiday entitlement to look after sick or injured children highlighting the pressures on working families.

More than two out five parents say they have had to take time off work in the past two years to look after children who have been involved in accidents or are ill and for one in four that has involved an overnight stay in hospital or even longer.

The biggest impact is increased stress for parents – but the research found parents are also suffering financially and at work.

Around 36 per cent say they have had to take unpaid leave while 44 per cent have taken days off as holiday. More than one in five say it has meant increased costs and expenses. Self-employed parents suffer the most with 33 per cent saying it has cost them work.

Mothers are more likely to take unpaid leave to care for ill or injured children – 46 per cent of women have taken time off work without pay compared with 29 per cent of men.

The survey found 39 per cent of parents are concerned about the financial impact of taking time off to look after injured or ill children and nearly a third of all working adults are worried about the potential costs of time off work to look after family members.

Worries about balancing family and working lives are reflected in support for improved rights for time off work – nearly two out of three workers would support changes in the law to ease the pressure on families.

Richard Horner, Head of Individual Protection, MetLife UK, who commissioned the research, said: “Parents understandably need to focus on caring for children after illness or injury and the research shows that unfortunately it is an everyday risk with millions having to take time off work every year.

“That can be tough on employers who are under financial pressure themselves but it is still worrying that so many parents are having to take unpaid leave or use holiday time. It is even worse for self-employed parents who lose work.

“Everyone needs to consider how they would cope if they have to take time off work whether it is to look after children or other family members as the finanical impact can be substantial. Strengthening your financial safety net in the event of illness or injury enables families and individuals to concentrate on recovery rather than worrying about money.”