One sick child away from unemployment

I went out to lunch yesterday with Linda Hahn, executive director of the Metropolitan Career Center, a Philadelphia nonprofit workforce development organization. We were talking about barriers to employment, especially for those moving from welfare to work. One of the biggest? Lack of childcare, she said. Often students can't even complete their training because their childcare arrangements fall apart, despite what seem to be valiant efforts. 

Even when women have a reasonably secure situation for day care, it can fall apart easily if a child gets sick and needs to stay home. You need back-up and back-up to the back-up. None of that is easy. Some people always have an "emergency" and it is easy to wonder whether those people are gaming their employers. But I think people go through extraordinary lengths to work, especially when resources are scarce. What should be done?

When companies give "sick" time, they shouldn't be strict about who is sick. How many people have called in "sick," when they are perfectly fine, but are taking care of a youngster? It's upsetting to have to lie in that circumstance. It is upsetting to have a sick child and it is really upsetting to have to choose between your child and your job. Lying breeds cynicism, but cooperation breeds loyalty and a better ability to manage the demands of the workplace with the realities of life.