Should I have to earn EDOs to cover excess family care time?
September 26, 2014 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Boss is proposing that I accumulate EDO (extra) time and use it to make up time caring my my daughter when she's sick. He says the average days off (family care +personal sick days) at our company is 5 and I'm too far beyond that ( 9 total out of an entitlement of 3 family care + 9 personal sick days). I think he is going to bring it up again today. Is this a fair and reasonable request?

We have an 'earned day off' policy at my work whereby an employee can put in extra time during the month and redeem it the following month for either a half or a full day off. I don't, because as a working mother who does the daycare pick-ups and drop-offs plus (via bus at that) and carries the majority housework and childcare load in the family, working extra time even for a day off is just not worth the stress.

We have 3 family care days (paid) a year. I'm 3 over that right now; my daughter's just been sick a lot this year. I'd like to take them as unpaid days, otherwise they'll be taken from my vacation time, but that's just background info.

Here's the question: my boss has proposed twice now that I accumulate EDO time and that he would allow me to use that time to make up for a day I need to spend caring for my daughter when she is sick. He says the average days off (both family care and personal sick days) for an employee at our company is 5 and I'm too far beyond that (I'm at 9 in total out of an entitlement of the 3 family care + 9 personal sick days). I think he is going to bring it up again today. Is this a fair and reasonable request on his part? Is it perhaps bordering on being a bit exploitive of women given that mothers are typically the parent who stays home with a sick child? Please, I'm not interested in hearing that I'm lucky to have a job in the first place and I should take what I'm given. I just want to hear some smart people discuss whether this is reasonable and fair.

I don't know if it matters, but for more context I'm in IT in a 1000 person company. I'd say of IT professionals, 30% are women. When including non-IT departments, I'd guess women make up more than 50% of workers here.

Thanks in advance :)
posted by kitcat to Work & Money (31 answers total)
Are employees prohibited from using their sick days to care for loved ones? Are sick days only for the employee and family care days only for the employee's family? (Not perfectly clear in your question, and your answer effects my opinion on this.)
posted by schroedingersgirl at 9:33 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

You have an additional 3 days. What is the calendar that these work on? Are you likely to go over the 9 days in total? If not, I don't see why you should do it. It's not relevant how many days people take on average, but how many you're entitled to. And remember, it's average because some people take more. Given that many people probably don't take their personal days (preferring to take vacation)), it means that many people take more than 5.

If you are likely to go over the three you have left, then you might consider it. Are you only entitled to take the days the month after you earn them or can you store them up? If you might go over the three, consider stocking up some time half an hour at a time. Use your personal days FIRST and if you don't end up using the time for a sick kid, take your kid to the museum this summer on a weekday. Use your personal days first ,since you can use your EDO but not personal days to go hang out with your kids, if you end up having the time for it.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:38 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

This stood out to me in your answer: Is it perhaps bordering on being a bit exploitive of women given that mothers are typically the parent who stays home with a sick child?

In our family, actually, my husband typically stays home with our sick kids, or else we alternate days (or we have had creative times where someone went to a meeting, we met halfway, the next person went to their meeting...and so on.) My husband is the higher earner, so we are pretty careful not to put his job at risk, but because men caring for their families are in general seen as more responsible and women caring for their families are seen as less committed, we have worked it out this way.

Rather than answer your question from a "what's fair and reasonable" perspective, which I hope others will (I don't think I can, being in Canada), I'm just going to say that I think from a career perspective your boss is basically telling you you're in danger of being perceived as not carrying your weight, and he needs you to spend more time on work to continue to produce. When I hear something like that, I listen really hard because my response will impact a lot on my future with that team. If your job is important to you, I would heed his advice even if it means your partner takes your child on a Sunday and you work that day and they have a 'just us" day. After another year or so you will probably be perceived as being back on track and then you can be more flexible again.

Sheerly legally though I would think you'd be entitled to your days.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:41 AM on September 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Are employees prohibited from using their sick days to care for loved ones?
Yes. Last year I had to use one vacation day to cover one family care day over the 3 allotted.

I have 3 days left which will last until the end of January (my work anniversay). I'm going to try my hardest not to go over (I'm sick as hell with what my daughter had today and I'm still here at work). But it's hard to make a prediction on that.

You cannot store up your EDO days.
posted by kitcat at 9:43 AM on September 26, 2014

Response by poster: I don't want to threadsit. I'll just clarify one more thing:

warriorqueen, I'm in Canada too! Also, at least one reason I stay home with our daughter rather than my husband is because in his industry he does not get paid for days off, his income is twice mine, and he gets penalized for an unexpected day off such that he's not allowed to work on Friday. Yes, that's allowed here in our lovely province. Besides that, he leaves for work at 5:30 for a 45 minute commute and that's before I can usually even determine that she's sick enough to need to stay home. And even if it made sense for him to drive all the way back to stay with her, he cannot carry his cell phone on the job site. I can only reach him on his breaks. BUT this is non of my work's business I would think.
posted by kitcat at 9:50 AM on September 26, 2014

I'd like to take them as unpaid days, otherwise they'll be taken from my vacation time

I'm not really understanding why that is not what you're doing now, before you try to make up time -- just take these days that you would have taken as sick as vacation days. I had to use up all my sick time on surgery this year, and it sucks, but my only time off for sickness or otherwise is coming out of my vacation pool. That sucks less than trying to work more.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:50 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure I'm parsing this correctly, but it seems like you get 12 days off, and you've already taken 9, your boss is concerned that you're going to go over the 12 and is offering to let you put in extra hours right now to build up a buffer?

The problem with "I'll just take unpaid leave" runs into the question of "is there work I'm supposed to be doing that's not getting done?". When a manager creates a position that position is created with the assumption that X amount of work will be done in Y hours by that person. When the person involved instead works Y-Z hours and is willing to take that differential as unpaid leave then that's problematic for the manager on two counts:
a) work doesn't get finished, or
b) he/she has to justify to upper management why he/she said a person was needed for Y hours when the workload could be done in less.
As a manager I'd start to get concerned about someone working less than full time. Generally a "you're not performing up to snuff" conversation requires extensive documentation and a performance improvement plan of some sort, but a "you need to be putting in more hours" doesn't, so this might be a way for your manager to nudge you in the right direction. You should listen carefully to see if there's an unspoken subtext here.
posted by Runes at 9:53 AM on September 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

I'm in Ontario and because I knew I was going to carry the majority of the "woman's work" in my family, I specifically choose jobs that valued my work without penalising me for being a mother. It is soooo much less stress to not always be one-down on male do-workers. Can you look for another position using your skills that is more generous with time off/flex time? Two years on a resume does not make you a job-hopper. Meanwhile, next time your daughter is sick, call in with your own illness instead of hers.
posted by saucysault at 10:02 AM on September 26, 2014

Response by poster: So sorry for not being clear enough. Last clarification. There may be subtext absolutely. But the way it was presented to me before I had even gone over my family care was: "Our department has more absenteeism than any other in the company. Upper manager and I have decided that for some employees (presumably the ones who, like me, go over allotted family care) we will allow them to take their EDO in the same month they accumulated it and without any notice to use against an unexpected day off. You should think about doing this."
posted by kitcat at 10:18 AM on September 26, 2014

If you see it as problematic, what is the solution? Are you going to ask your employer to give you more paid time off? If so, how much would be ideal for you and is it fair that the work you would presumably be performing during that time be done by those who showed up?

It is entirely possible to negotiate a more flexible schedule, but it sounds like your employer is already very accommodating with the flexible hours and banked days off that you mentioned. On refreshing, it sounds like your employer is already bending absenteeism rules for you to accommodate your unusual expectations.
posted by Willie0248 at 10:26 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was going to say I thought that you could use personal sick days to take care of family members, but according to this it looks like that's an option for the employer. You might be able to look at personal emergency leave, but I'm unfamiliar with that.

I agree with others that this is your employer trying to say that they don't feel you're pulling your weight; even if the weight is just the appearance of attendence. At the very least document the date and that this conversation occured, and that you currently have not been overdrawn on your days. You have the days to use; you are allowed to use them.

WTF, EDO time can't be saved up? If I were you, I'd say at the very least that due to the unpredictability of illness that unless EDO time can be saved up (at least within the year; not the month), that EDO appears to be completely handicapped system, and unless you've used up your remaining days that you can't see it being a rational decision to buy in. Perhaps they'll offer you the option to bank them.

You've used 9/12 of your days with 8/12 of the time until you get your days back and we haven't really entered flu season yet; you're averaging more than one per month, and you can't force your child to not puke at school even if you can muscle through illness yourself. I'd push for you to get them (in writing) to allow you to bank the EDO days, and look at getting 1-3, and maybe you'll actually get to (gasp!) take an actual vacation day during a school day and get some much needed R&R in January before your vacation days run out.

On preview; it looks like they feel they've made a concession allowing the EDO to be used on immediate notice, so you might not get allowance to bank them for later illness. You can still use them to actually get some rest for yourself if you're lucky enough to not have an illness. Don't underestimate time off for youself. Since you do seem to be needing to make use of these to cover actual illnesses, I have to think this might be a bit in your interest to aim to bank one each month from now until January when they reset.
posted by nobeagle at 10:30 AM on September 26, 2014

If your vacation balance rolls over, ask if you can take them as unpaid days. If it doesn't, then take them as vacation days. If neither of those is an option, maybe see if you can work one extremely long day and bank the time.

And next time your daughter is sick, tell them "I won't be coming in due to illness". Don't mention you or your daughter.

Also, it looks like you're in Edmonton. I'm in Calgary and the rules around your sick days and your husband's work rules are nutso. I'm assuming there must be some Oil n Gas employment in there somewhere. There are better jobs. My current position includes "your children's illness" as a valid reason for a sick day. If they make a big deal about it, you might want to look for better options.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:30 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Start looking for a new job. There are lots and lots of companies out there that don't treat their employees like that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:35 AM on September 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

It seems like your employer is actually trying to be generous with you here.

Before this conversation, your options (after using up allotted family time) were to take days off unpaid, or to use your vacation time for those days off.

Now, you are being given the opportunity to use your EDO (in places where I've worked, we've called it "comp time") in a more flexible way that could help with your situation.

This new change doesn't sound like it works for you, but I betcha there are some employees for which this would be a great deal (for example, being able to work four 10 hour days instead of five 8s, and then saving on daycare for a day).

Sure, having you put in full hours every month is probably a better deal for your employer than having you take unpaid leave (for reasons described above). However, it doesn't sound like exploitation is happening here, unless there is other stuff going on that you aren't mentioning.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:42 AM on September 26, 2014

You're in Canada? I'm pretty sure you're entitled to 10 "personal emergency leave" days, which are intended for exactly taking care of sick kids, by law, not 9. HRSDC and the provincial ministries of labour don't joke around with employment standards. Take your 10 days to care for your daughter if you need them. And document that your manager asked you not to.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:46 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

To answer one question, it is NOT "exploitive of women" to apply any company policy equally to both sexes. You do not get preferential treatment because you are a woman and a mother.

Secondly, I have never worked anywhere that allowed me to accumulate EDO time to use before I used all my vacation days. I agree that you need to see this as an opportunity and not an unfair imposition.
posted by raisingsand at 10:47 AM on September 26, 2014 [11 favorites]

It sounds very generous and accommodating to me. It sounds like a great solution to your problem and not exploitative at all.
posted by valeries at 10:55 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

OK, that you are in Canada is extremely important. And your province is the next most important thing. People from other places may not be able to help, given the differences in law. Take a look at this article on leave by a lawyer:

Call your employment standards office and ask what the policy is about unpaid leave to care for a family member. I think it's 5 days here in BC. Just get informed.

Consider whether you can work from home when your child is sick. Also consider whether you could put in some extra hours once your child is in bed at night. I don't know what kind of work you do - maybe it isn't possible. Maybe consider working one Saturday morning a month to accrue extra time plus an hour somewhere else.

Is there a dad in the picture? If so, could he take every second or third sick day?

Can you work a shorter lunch and accrue time? Come in 15 min earlier and leave 15 min later? Use a ZipCar or cab to speed up your commute a few days a week or month?

You may also be wise to have a 15-minute consult with a lawyer (free through lawyer referral services, in some cases) so that you can learn more about your rights and keep a paper trail to protect yourself. This is not because I think your employer is bad. It's just so that you know what you are doing.

The age of your child matters. If they are new to daycare or have transitioned to the preschool room or kindergarten, they will get sick a lot during exposure to all the new people. But it should get better, in most cases.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:56 AM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not interested in hearing that I'm lucky to have a job in the first place and I should take what I'm given. I just want to hear some smart people discuss whether this is reasonable and fair.

I guess I'm not sure what you want that's useful and not chatfilter. I mean, reasonable and fair in a sense of human beings being good to each other? No, I'd say it's not. It's shitty on a lot of levels, even before you get into questions of gender equity.

Mostly I think it's nonsense because of this parsing of what paid time off (PTO) days are used for what purpose. 3 days family, some unspecified number of sick, X number of vacation. Who gives a shit? Why are there these pools of days that require this intrusion into your life about what's going on? They are I Am Not In The Office Days, period, done, fully stop.

But then, I am a big believer that jobs should have one pile of PTO and that's that. I think that's most fair to everyone. Not everyone agrees - when this comes up in conversation I have many times had people angrily tell me they don't want to use their vacation days because they're sick. Trying to discuss that there would no longer BE such a thing as vacation days gets nowhere.

Your employer seems to be jerking you around on this because they can, with this nonsense about whether sick days have to be you or the kiddo. I don't know that having the conversation before you run out of days qualifies, in and of itself, as crappy - avoiding problems before they arise is actually the responsible management choice. Helping you avoid suddenly getting unpaid time off is the right thing to do, just as you ideally don't have an employee intervention with paperwork be the first time you address performance problems.

But I am with blue_beetle on this - my inclination is that from now on you say "I'm sick" and just use sick days. I guess you might run up against an issue if they want doctor's notes - if this company culture is meddlesome in general and they can legally require those things, they might - perhaps someone else can chime in on this for your location.

I guess the meta-question here is what's the way to approach this, and do you have to read something between the lines. You're clearly inclined to be irked by it, so is that reflective of your current interaction with your employer? Is that something you can solve/address on your end, or are they just coming at you and your only reasonable course of action is to rule-lawyer up and hard line with them?

If this is really just a cordial "you could be coming up on an issue here" observation (though married with an unfortunate company culture of meddling in the specifics of your PTO) then perhaps you say thanks, I appreciate the heads-up and the option of how to deal with it but I don't have the time in my life to bank time. If we run out of PTO days then we'll have to address that when the time comes. If you're heading in an adversarial direction that you can't avoid then perhaps you have to be firmer or more this-is-not-a-discussion in your tone and say that you don't see this is something that needs further discussion at this time and make it clear that if your boss wants to pursue it they'll need to start making it official. Perhaps you ask, point-blank, is there a problem with my performance you'd like to discuss, given that I'm within my PTO benefits at this point?

So much of happy employment is a matter of tone and subtle unspoken culture. Whether it's Fair very rarely factors into it in any enforceable way. Only you are really going to be able to suss out the subtext here well enough to determine the course of action that will make you happiest.
posted by phearlez at 10:57 AM on September 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your boss says: "To reduce absenteeism, we're giving you the opportunity to earn EDO and use it in the same month, instead of earning it one month and using it the following month. Consider doing this."

You say: "Thank you for the flexibility. I will consider doing this."

Next time you or your kid gets sick, don't mention that it's your kid and use one of your own sick days.

And if you go over the 12 days total, or if your boss reasonably says to you, "You had 3 family care days and you took 6," that's when you take them up on the EDO offer or use vacation days.

Take what you're entitled to and shrug off any suggestion that you should be closer to the average. But if you're taking more than what you're entitled to, you need to make up for it.

Also, unpaid days off can administratively be a big pain for a company. I would not assume that they can give you unpaid days off unless you have explicitly requested this and it has been approved.
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:03 AM on September 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Why are there these pools of days that require this intrusion into your life about what's going on?

Because vacation days are generally part of your compensation package and need to be paid out whether or not they are taken, sick days are not. (Some companies may elect to pay out unused sick days, but they are not obliged to do so.)

I do think it's bizarre to restrict sick days to days you yourself are sick, and unless you need to bring in a note, how could they know? I don't think he's trying to exploit you though, I think he's trying to help you. Unfortunately his way of helping you doesn't work for you, but I think he's trying to ensure you can take the time off you need without putting your job at risk.
posted by jeather at 11:16 AM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

If there are 1000 employees in your organisation, there is probably a policy on taking unpaid leave. What does it say?

I think it's kind of unfair to other women to ask for special treatment because you're a woman and a mother, and then to imply it's sexist if you don't get that special treatment. What are your employers supposed to think - oh, she's a woman, she can't possibly be expected to work as many hours as the men??

Not all of us do most of the housework, have higher paid partners, do both pick up and drop off, etc. Equal treatment and better work-life balance with flexibility for parents is great. Special treatment for having two x chromosomes is not. And your partner should probably be doing half the housework. Just because most women end up doing more than half doesn't mean you have to, or that you and your employer should accept that as normal and acceptable
posted by hazyjane at 11:18 AM on September 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Just use your own sick days.

"Boss, I will be out today due to illness. -Kitcat"

The end. Any more questioning beyond that is really none of the employer's business. When you run out of sick days, use vacation days (assuming they allow you to take them on the fly like that and not require advance approval). You could also pay for a babysitter for days your child is sick.

Unpaid time off is completely within the discretion of your employer, subject to any applicable laws, and it's not really reasonable to assume it is available. I think your employer's offer is very reasonable and fair, and do not see how it is sexist, unless it is only available to women.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:34 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is this the same boss that you got into a conflict with last year over a late project and back-doored to his boss, and to whom the BA on your team has been complaining about you? If so, I'm not sure that fighting him to the death on this one is going to be a smart move for you in the long run even if you win, if you want to keep this job long-term - at some point your political position is just going to become completely untenable.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 1:26 PM on September 26, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks all for the answers, they've given me a lot to think about.

I can provide an update. I can have one extra 'free' family day (I wonder how much this has to do with the fact that my boss accidentally approved it) and have to use 2 vacation days to make up the rest. Boss says this is what HR has decreed. So that's that. Thankfully the EDO bit wasn't brought up again. YMMV, but I prefer the vacation days solution. I'll still look into labour standards on this for Alberta. I really do find it 'off' that you cannot apply family care to your own sick time. Apparently taking unpaid days is only for excess personal sick time.

Here's the part that I think is a bit unfair: how many men end up using more than 3 days of family care and either have to work within narrow rules to lengthen their work day or shorten their vacations because of it? It's a policy that disproportionately affects women.
posted by kitcat at 2:24 PM on September 26, 2014

It might depend on where you live. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, among my set (40-somethings) it really does seem to be 50/50 depending on whose job has the most family care days available. Nationally (meaning US "nationally"), you're probably right, but even that is changing daily.

Now, if you were talking about taking care of your PARENTS? So far that seems to be landing more heavily on women for some reason.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:48 PM on September 26, 2014

I don't see why it's sexist. It sounds like you're assuming that (even after breastfeeding is over) women will do over half of the childcare and housework, and I think that's a sexist assumption. Even in your own family, you make clear it's an economic and timing decision, not an XX chromosome thing. I sure don't want to end up consigned to staying home every time my (hypothetical) child gets sick because of some policy allowing females extra PTO. Ugh.

I do totally agree with you that you should be able to use your own sick days for this. So I'd probably start looking for a new job or making this part of salary negotiations.
posted by salvia at 4:32 PM on September 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

Also, while I'm a bit confused, to me it sounds like the subtext might be "our department is looking bad. Can you help us not look bad?" Depending on how you relate to your supervisor, I'd probably do the best I could (i.e., keep doing what you're doing) and occasionally apologize for what I can't do. Yes, it's BS if they're going to gripe at your supervisor for their staff using a company benefit, and it's unfortunate that they've decided to pass the pressure through to you, but what's at issue here is your personal relationship with them. Ideally, they go to bat for you (even when you screw up, within reason), and you try to help them out (even when the pressure they are under is unfair, within reason... which IMO "don't use the benefit we provide" borders on not being). But still, apologies or acknowledgments of the situation are free. It's a way of saying you're aware of the request and that while you aren't helping the situation, you did remember that they asked, and you're sorry you couldn't help them out.
posted by salvia at 4:36 PM on September 26, 2014

To answer the question on whether or not it's fair to women: It obviously will disproportionately hurt women because women ARE more likely to be the ones to stay home with a sick child. However, that unfairness is coming from inequality in the division of labour at home, not directly from what the workplace does. That said, of course, inequality of the division of labour in the home can also be traced back to workplace inequality that in various ways makes it easier for women to stay home than for men. I don't think you're suggesting that women and mothers have more time off or such than men only that everyone have enough time off to take care of their families, which seems reasonable and is of course one of the things that federal and provincial employment standards acts try to ensure.

It sounds like you're assuming that (even after breastfeeding is over) women will do over half of the childcare and housework, and I think that's a sexist assumption.

I think it would be sexist to assume that women SHOULD do more than half of the childcare and housework. However, to assume that they DO over half the childcare and housework isn't sexist, it's an acknowledgement of an empirically supported fact. Even in San Francisco, women are more likely to stay home with a sick child than men (citation PDF).

So in conclusion, yes, it does disproportionately hurt women, but that's not exactly the company's fault, and the solution to that is to have workplace policies that make it possible for anyone to take care of their family. But your manager isn't worried about that, your manager just wants to look good to his boss and cut absenteeism rates. Not your problem. Do what's best for your family.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:16 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

melissasaurus: "Unpaid time off is completely within the discretion of your employer, subject to any applicable laws, and it's not really reasonable to assume it is available. I think your employer's offer is very reasonable and fair, and do not see how it is sexist, unless it is only available to women."

Pretty well this. Your employer is already being more than fair and exceeding the mandatory minimums. They are coming to you with a solution that benefits both parties (no unpaid absences for you and control of number of hours per month for them).

My only concern is the use of average as a metric. If half your department is childless 20 somethings or otherwise doesn't take very many sick days then of course you are going to be exceeding the average.

kitcat: "Here's the part that I think is a bit unfair: how many men end up using more than 3 days of family care and either have to work within narrow rules to lengthen their work day or shorten their vacations because of it? It's a policy that disproportionately affects women."

But your employer isn't being sexist or acting in a discriminatory manner. An argument might be made that your husband's employer is acting in such a way be restricting his access to communication (though when I've worked in such places my foreman always had a phone and could get a hold of me if I was needed at home or the hospital unexpectedly) but really the disproportionate burden is a result of the division of labour you have come to within your family.
posted by Mitheral at 6:24 PM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

A friend of mine here in Calgary is a single mom with two kids, 6 and 4 years old. I met her at a company I used to work for. She's not allowed to take sick leave for looking after her kids when they're ill. And she can't take them to daycare when they're ill. They make her use vacation or banked time to cover it if she needs time off. Fortunately, her immediate supervisor is flexible about her in-office hours so she's allowed to work remotely, and she usually puts in a half-day at home. It's very hard for her to work extended hours as a mom.

She once took a sick day because she WAS sick, but got into trouble when someone else found out her kids were home sick too. As if she'd lied about being sick to stay home with the kids... she had to talk to her department lead directly, bring a doctor's note in, and still it seemed like a warning was in place.

I'm surprised your company sounds like they have a problem with using vacation time to cover it.
posted by lizbunny at 11:56 PM on September 26, 2014

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