sick leave

I’ve been looking up information about paid sick time in my state, happy to note that most employees are eligible to earn and build up a bank of sick time. There’s a lot to like about Massachusetts. Still, though the law requires payment, many employees probably still feel reluctant to take time off, even for a sick kid.

As a public school teacher, my paid sick days are regulated differently. The reason I’m thinking of this law today is that I woke up with a massive headache and promptly puked my guts out. I suspect that my darling student shared his germs with me. When he arrived at school yesterday, it was clear something was wrong. “I was up all night throwing up,” he told me. Um, so why are you at school? “Mom said I had to come.”

Yeah, anger at Mom was my first reaction. Grabbing some spray cleaner and a rag to try to control the germs was my second. It took two trips down to the nurse and throwing up into the trash can before I could get him sent home. Not soon enough, apparently.

Though, as a privileged middle-class Mom with a husband and extended family to share the sick-care burdens, my first reaction is to think less of this Mom, it only takes a moment’s reflection to remember that not everyone is as lucky as I.

Massachusetts Law requires most employers (those with 11 or more employees) to offer paid sick time, I know that it’s not that simple. Parents who need to take time off for sick kids, for doctor appointments, for school events, for household emergencies, and for their own illnesses can face sanctions at work including loss of the job itself. There were plenty of times I kept a kid home from school only to have them running around fit as a fiddle by 10:30am. It can be worth the risk of sending in a sluggish kid, hoping for that miracle cure instead of that dreaded phone call.

My student’s Mom took the risk. I am annoyed at being caught in the crosshairs here, but I know she didn’t declare the war, she’s just soldiering through the best she can. It’s time we took serious care of our children and their working parents and put some safeguards in place to make sure Moms don’t have to send in their sick kids.

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