THURSDAY, Oct. 25, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- One-third of U.S. parents say they worry about losing pay or their jobs when they stay at home to care for sick children who can't attend child care, a new survey finds.
Many child care providers have rules that require children to stay home if they're sick. The impact that such policies have on millions of working parents was assessed in the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.
The survey included 310 parents with children younger than 6 years old in child care. Nearly two-thirds of the parents said their children could not attend child care at some point in the past year due to illness.
Almost half of the parents said they had missed work in the past year to care for sick children who weren't allowed to go to child care, and one-quarter said they missed work three or more times. Half of the parents said finding alternative care for sick children is difficult.
Thirty-three percent of the parents were concerned about losing pay or jobs if they had to miss work to take care of sick children, and 31 percent said they don't have enough paid leave to cover the days spent caring for sick children.
Eight percent of parents said taking their sick children to the emergency room is more convenient than seeing a primary care doctor because they feel the emergency room is their only option if they want to have their children seen by a doctor after standard office hours and get them back to child care the next day.
"The results of this poll clearly indicate that illnesses that lead to exclusions from child care are a substantial problem for working parents," Dr. Andrew Hashikawa, a clinical lecturer in pediatric emergency medicine at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, said in a university news release.
"Improving employee benefits related to paid sick leave appears to be important for many parents," he noted. "More supportive sick leave policies would allow parents to care for their sick children at home or give parents the opportunity to go to their child's usual health care provider instead of the emergency room."
The Nemours Foundation offers tips for choosing child care.