You get an emergency call from home. You need to leave work urgently. Or your child is sick or your grandmother needs to get to the hospital. Perhaps you have other long term issues at home that interfere with your work life in various ways. The list of the issues that we have at home is long; they really risk interfering with our jobs. How do we manage all of this and still keep a good reputation at work? This is a real challenge that almost everyone who works experiences at some time in their working life.

There are no clear-cut answers in how to find the right balance, but it is important that you look at various ways to deal with these home difficulties. If you don’t, they can cause you to lose a promotion or even lose your job.

The good news is that every employee has 3 days of family responsibility leave per year if you work in a full-time position (or at least 4 days per week). This means that, in the event of a family emergency, you can take these days off. As with any leave, you will need to consult with your manager and fill in a leave form but you are entitled to those days. (Do note that family responsibility leave does not apply to employees who have worked for less than 4 months for their employer, or those who only work four days a week for one employer, or who work for only 24 hours a month.)

Sometimes, though, even if you are entitled to family responsibility leave, life is more complicated than this and 3 days don’t seem to cover all your difficulties at home.

Here are some suggestions on how to manage the situation:

• Don’t ever miss a day without letting anyone know in advance. No matter what the emergency is, you need to contact your manager, usually telephonically, to let her know what the issue is and request leave.

• Take as little leave in general as possible. This means that you don’t take leave or miss days for any reason that isn’t essential. This way your work place will know that you are reliable and that you don’t take time off just because you feel like it.

• Don’t make appointments during work time. The best time to make appointments is when you take some annual leave. You can usually take annual leave at various times during your work year, so apply for some and use this time to go to appointments.

• If you do take family responsibility or annual leave for an issue, always be back at work on the time and day you said you would be back (and applied for on your leave form). Your manager relies on you being back at work and when you don’t appear, she will be unhappy with you.

• Sick children are really difficult for working mothers to deal with. If there is an emergency you do need to be there for your child. This is the moment to take family responsibility leave and let your manager know. But children tend to get sick quite often so you won’t be able to take time off work every time. This means that you will need to work out carefully who will be responsible for your child while you are working. You will need another caring adult who can look after your child when you can’t.

• If you find that a situation at home impacts either on your ability to go to work or on the quality of your work, you need to think very carefully about how to deal with this.

There are various ways that you could try and work through these issues but only you will know if they will help.

Perhaps you can:

• Have a conversation with the people who are creating the difficulty for you at home and explain how it is impacting on your job and that the situation could mean that you lose your job.

• Discuss the situation with a helpful member of your family who isn’t in the home and who can help you resolve it with the others.

• Speak to someone in your community or church that can either support you through the difficulty or help you sort the home situation out.

• See a professional such as a social worker if the situation is really bad and you can’t find a way to resolve it.

• Find alternative accommodation that doesn’t cause such difficulties if the situation cannot be solved.

It might be a good idea to let your manager know that you are experiencing difficulties but that you are working hard to resolve them.

You may well feel conflicted in many of these situations and really wish you could be at home more often. Actually, most people feel like that so you’re not unusual if you do. Perhaps your chance will come when you are a bit older but right now it’s important for your career that you show commitment to your job and manage these situations.

Home difficulties happen to everyone and they are always difficult to manage. Work on getting the right balance for home and work by being prepared for issues that might arise, and by always communicate with your manager if you feel that they are impacting on your job.


Tell us: Did you find this helpful? Have you got other tips on how to deal with balancing home emergencies and work life?