Surprise! I have to take some time off...
August 1, 2011 10:04 PM   Subscribe

When should I tell my [part-time, food-service] employer that I'll be needing three months off because my husband will be away on work? I have to stay home and care for our toddler. Difficultiy: still on trainee-probation.

My probation ends six days before he is scheduled to leave on work in September. I've been doing well at work and am fully trained in all basic aspects of the establishment. They've invested well over a hundred hours in me so far. Of course, this is the type of place that is used to a high turnover, but I was hired in a position that involved some additional training/investment on their part.

If I tell them with two weeks notice that I need leave, they will be within their rights to terminate my employment outright, no notice, nothing. If I tell them after my probation is up, with only 5-6 days notice and potentially screwing up one week's scheduling, they will be obligated to offer me two weeks work or pay in lieu of work upon letting me go, if that's what they want. At least that is my understanding of Ontario law. I may be wrong.

I have no doubt that if the status quo were maintained, they would keep me, but obviously this sudden need for leave throws a wrench in things. I have no reliable childcare options available that could allow me to keep working while he's away, even on a reduced schedule. So that's not an option.

How should I approach this with management? For what it's worth, we're a military family and this is a military community. I may find some compassion there, but maybe not. Ethically, I feel I need to give them two week's notice of my need for extended leave, but I also feel like that puts me in an incredibly vulnerable position.

Can I get some outside perspective here? It seems silly to stress over this keeping this kind of job, but it's the only accesible employer in my area for me, and I find the work fits me quite well otherwise. I feel awful at the prospect of having to lose it entirely. I wouldn't even have a reference to show for my time.

What do I do!?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (15 answers total)
Nobody is going to give you three months off from a part-time job. You are quitting. The best that can happen is if they have an opening in three months, they might give you preferential treatment since they've already trained you. Of course, you will just have had three months to forget everything you were taught, so they will probably want to just start over. Sure, apply there again when you're ready to go back to work, but don't just apply there.
posted by kindall at 10:20 PM on August 1, 2011 [10 favorites]

Yeah, it sounds like you need to change your vibe from "I need to take some time off" to "pretty please may I take this time away and then perhaps you'll have a spot for me when I'm ready to return?" You might pitch it to them in terms of your skills and training, how much you love it there, how committed you are to the company (are you?), how devoted you plan on being when you return, and how you can guarantee (can you?) that this won't ever happen again.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:25 PM on August 1, 2011

If they have a high turnover that means they don't try very hard to keep their employees. They will terminate you. Why shouldn't they?

If I was your boss, this is what I would be thinking: This is a problem employee who has barely completed training and already wants special treatment.

I think the best you can hope for is to leave amicably and try to reapply for the job in the future when you are able to work again.
posted by twblalock at 10:41 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

My probation ends six days before he is scheduled to leave on work in September

You still have a month or so to look into babysitting coops, maybe ask a relative to help out, find part-time daycare for at least a reduced work schedule. Are you sure you have checked out all your options already? If this is a military community, does that mean you live on base? Many times military wives band together to help each other out when their husbands are deployed (and vice versa when the wife is in the military). Have you asked your spouse if there are any options he can think of, or if any of his family could possibly come help out? Maybe you could line up a few helpers, each helping out for a few weeks?

It just sounds like you have made up your mind to take off for 3 months (which really means losing your job) without exploring all your options, since you have a few weeks yet to go before your spouse leaves.
posted by misha at 10:53 PM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you're trying to get an extra 2 weeks pay out of them, well, good luck. If you tell them you need 3 months off, they will tell you to show up on the first day youve asked for off or you're fired. When you don't show up, they now have cause to fire you, and you're done anyway. At least, that's how I envision it... I know nothing about the laws, except that in BC you only get those two weeks severance if you are let go, not if you're fired with cause.

How you handle this depends on what bridges you want to burn. If you don't want/care for anything about them, you don't have to tell them anything, except maybe on your last day to mention 'oh, by the way, i quit.' If you want to play nice in hopes of coming back, give them two weeks notice, and hope they keep you around for those two weeks. They may not, but it's out of your hands at this point anyway.
posted by cgg at 10:54 PM on August 1, 2011

handle it in a business-like manner: ask for a meeting with boss, tell them straight up that you are going to be unable to continue your current schedule, because of your changing personal circumstances, and be ready to give a last date of availability.
posted by thelonius at 11:08 PM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think the probation issue is a red herring and not worth stressing about. The only real effect of the probation is if they decide not to let you finish your 2 weeks notice (unlikely in a food service job and if they like you). Playing around with it is just going to annoy your employer and reduce the chances that they will rehire you after 3 months. There is basically no chance that you will be payed an additional two weeks if you don't actually physically show up to work on schedule(which you can't, or else you wouldn't be leaving).

I think your best chance of getting the job back is to be honest with your boss, tell them you like the job, this was an unexpected curve ball, and hope to be able to come back. Definitely give them 2 weeks notice and be cheerful and helpful the whole time, leave a good impression.
posted by fruit sandwich at 11:17 PM on August 1, 2011 [9 favorites]

Yeah, you are quitting. The probation means nothing in this context as you have no "right" to take 3 months off. Hopefully they will have a space for you in 3 months.
posted by saradarlin at 1:17 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Start looking for a babysitter or a new job.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:54 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am absolutely not a lawyer, but I could see that this circumstance might be covered by FMLA? It may be worth talking to a lawyer for advice.
posted by misterbrandt at 8:56 AM on August 2, 2011

FMLA doesn't kick in until after 12 months of employment. Also, OP is Canadian.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:12 AM on August 2, 2011

Clearly not a lawyer, indeed
posted by misterbrandt at 9:15 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm going to agree with misha - are you sure there's no childcare that could be available to you, at all? Is it that you can't afford it, or you don't trust the childcare that you've been able to find? If you're working part-time, you might even be able to hire a college student who is an education major to care for your toddler while you're working.
posted by woodvine at 3:21 PM on August 2, 2011

I am not a lawyer. It sounds like many of the posters here may be unfamiliar with Canadian law. You need to get in touch with the folks at the base and ask them for their help with this. You may have rights as the spouse of a military person on active duty or they may have some sort of assistance. You may also want to talk to a lawyer -- most will offer you 15 minutes for free on the phone.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:35 PM on August 2, 2011

I've been management at a fast food place. We would never fire someone for this. Trained employees are an asset, not a liability. It would be silly to fire someone just for needing time off.

However, the issue is what happens when you want to come back. Will they have hours for you to work? If your job is something like the playland supervisor, where there really is limited need for workers at any one time, if they have hired someone in the interim who is doing the job full time, you may only be offered off-hours or time-off coverage for that person. Otherwise, you'd probably be offered time behind the counter.

How do you approach it? "Hey boss, I just found out that my husband will be away for work for three months starting on X. I am going to need time off to care for my son. I'd love to be able to come back when he returns. How do we handle this?"
posted by gjc at 6:40 AM on August 3, 2011

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