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What are your rights when either you or your children get sick?
How should you combine working at home with a sick child, and when are you yourself considered sick enough to ‘log out’ of work?
This inconvenient situation often pops up when you least expect it: Your child wakes up one morning with a runny nose, fever and nausea – and it’s clear they can’t go to kindergarten or school that day.
But who should stay home and take care of them? How should you combine working at home with a sick child, and what about when you yourself are sick? When are you considered sick enough to ‘log out’ of work?
We’ve asked family therapist Kate Elin Søyland and Tekna’s attorneys to help us answer a few questions on this timely topic.
– Look for solutions that reflect gender equality
Søyland has a private practice in Sandnes (Åpen Dialog) where she counsels couples who are often struggling to manage their families’ busy schedules.
– Many people live in performance-oriented cultures where illness is seen only as an irritating disruption to the workday, she claims.
Accordingly, the way in which parents share responsibility for sick children varies a lot. While some couples talk with one another – and both consider their possibility of staying home from work – others argue about «whose turn it is» to do this. In some families the thought that one parent’s job is more important than the other’s job is said out loud, while in other families this thought remains unspoken.
– Speak honestly and listen carefully to the partner who’s not content with the current situation. Behind the criticism and complaining often lies what’s merely an unmet need. Look for solutions that make you equal partners. This is about a lot more than taking a child’s temperature or comforting and caring for them; it’s about taking your partner seriously and investing in the most important relationships you have in your life, she says.
Working remotely not an obligation
When you have to stay home with a sick child, Søyland recommends delegating as much work as possible to other co-workers during the day. And if you can manage it, work yourself during the evening. But if you absolutely have to make work-related calls during the day, let your child watch a favorite movie while you’re on the phone.
– Talk with your employer about the dilemma you have in that your job’s been taking up an increasing amount of space in your family life. And make sure to completely ‘log out’ of work now and then. Doing this is good for both you and your children. Besides, it’s not the number of hours you work but the quality of the work you do that counts, Søyland explains.
It’s become common in this post-pandemic time for many people to work from home, a fact that makes it challenging to know if you should work from home or not when you’re in the house with a sick child. Should you work as much as possible? Or can you focus on taking care of your little one?
Lene Therese Nilssen and Stina Johnsen are legal advisors in Tekna who claim that combining taking care of sick children while working from home isn’t something you’re obligated to do.
– If you don’t have an agreement with your employer that you can work from home, you have to meet up at the office unless you use a self-certification day because your child is sick. In the same way, if you’ve used a self-certification day to care for a sick child, you’re not obligated to log on to your PC and work from home, explains Nilssen.
What do you do when you yourself are sick?
According to these attorneys, you’re not obligated to work from home when you yourself are sick and are using a self-certification day.
– Self-certification can only be used for whole days. If you’re sick for half a day, a partial sick leave or paid leave (upon agreement with your employer) may be appropriate, says Johnsen.
If you have a home office agreement, it can be great to work from home when you have a slight cough or runny nose. But it’s not always easy to know when you’re sick enough to use a self-certification day.
Søyland advises you to listen to your body’s physical and mental signals.
– If you don’t take these signals seriously, you can risk severe consequences. Nobody, including you, is indispensable at work, even if it sometimes feels that way, she emphasizes.
Listen to your doctor (or partner) and be honest with your employer about how you’re doing.
– Being open usually pays off in the end. You have to dare to speak up and explain to your employer why you haven’t been performing well at work lately. And if, after doing so, you get understanding and support from them, this in turn can make you more loyal and motivated to work harder once you’re feeling better.
The therapist’s tips:
- Evaluate what’s happening at home: What’s working/not working when your children are sick? What do you need to change?
- Have a solid plan and work as a team, because it’s bad enough when your child’s sick. Focus on the child’s needs and work at creating a peaceful and organized day for everyone’s sake.
- Acknowledge the one who’s working «the third shift» and taking physical and emotional responsibility for your child. Call during your lunch hour and ask how it’s going, and try to go home an hour earlier, even if the situation isn’t urgent. While you can quickly make up this hour of work in the evening, your child is only young once.
- Be a healthy and proactive company that puts easy-to-follow measures in place to promote a healthy work-life balance. Listen to people who have experience in this area.
- Don’t forget employees who don’t have a partner or family at home. They might have an extra need to talk with you so you can find out if they’ll need any special arrangements if they get sick.
- Offer preventative couples counselling. Some companies give employees paid leave when daycare centers and/or schools have planning days. Understand the value of being a family-friendly company.
Your rights when your child is sick
- Starting the same calendar year when your child turns 12, you as a parent have the right to take up to 10 days off per calendar year to care for a sick child. If you have more than 2 children, you have the right to take 15 days off. This number applies to each parent.
- If your child has a chronic or long-term illness, or an illness/injury/condition that makes it difficult for them to do the things that other people do, and there is consequently a greater risk that you’ll be absent from work, you as an employee have a right to take up to 20 days off each calendar year. This right applies up to the calendar year when your child turns 18.
- If you’re a single caregiver, you have a right to twice as many days off. This also applies if there are two caregivers, but one of them is prevented from caring for the child on a long-term basis.
- An employee has a right to take off work in order to participate in training at an approved healthcare institution or public competency center to learn how to care for and treat their child. There are no limits to the number of days that may be taken.
- You have a right to take off work for an unlimited number of days if your child must be admitted to/stay at a healthcare institution and needs constant monitoring and care, or if your child has a life-threatening illness or other severe illness or injury. If your child is mentally impaired, you have a right to take off work regardless of their age.
- An employee always has a right to take off work whenever a care benefit/ attendance allowance/training allowance is being paid by the National Insurance Act.
Your rights when you are sick
- In order to be allowed to use self-certification (egenmelding) if you become ill, you must have been employed at the company for at least 2 months. If you become ill before this time, you must present a sick note issued by a healthcare professional. The law gives you the right to use self-certification up to 3 days at a time over the course of a 16-day period. This may be done up to 4 times a year.
- If you’re placed on sick leave, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) will determine if you’ve fulfilled all terms and requirements for receiving sickness benefits.
- If you have a partial work ability or work capacity, your employer is obligated to adjust your work accordingly.
- Self-certification may only be applied to whole days. If you’re sick for half a day, a partial sick leave or paid leave (upon agreement with your employer) may be appropriate.
- There are separate rules for companies with an IA Agreement (Letter of Intent regarding a more inclusive working life). In this case an employee may use up to 24 self-certification days over a period of 12 months as long as each self-certification does not exceed 8 days.
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