Kristin Murphey’s 2-year-old daughter Emma has been home sick just about every other week since September.
There have been colds, a full body rash, RSV with pneumonia and pneumonia without RSV. They’ve taken multiple trips to the pediatrician, and had one stint in the emergency department.
All the while, Murphey and her husband, who live in Madison, have tried to keep working, sneaking tasks in during naptime and at odd hours. But as Murphey says, “working remotely with a 2-year-old is not actually a thing.”
For the days when multitasking isn’t an option, they’ve relied on sick time. Their experience is one caregivers across the nation are dealing with right now. Recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows workplace absences for child care reasons rose to an all-time high in October.
A 2021 national survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly four in 10 workers are employed somewhere that started offering or expanded paid leave benefits during the pandemic. Ongoing workforce shortages have also pushed employers to make changes to attract and retain workers.
Missy Hughes, CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., said she’s seen something similar among employers in Wisconsin.
“Employers are recognizing that retention of their employees is critical when we’re in a time of workforce shortage,” Hughes said. “And so being more accommodating to absences that are associated with child care is indicative of the need to retain those employees and keep them for the long term.”
[Adapted from: Rash of illnesses among Wisconsin kids keeping caregivers home from work November 28, 2022 Wisconsin Public Radio:]