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Advice and Tips

What are your rights when either you or your children get sick?

Nov. 30 2021

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

Kate Elin Søyland
Kate Elin Søyland, foto Liubov Mikheeva

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.

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