What if I don’t go to work?  Take a three-day vacation?

What if my employee calls in sick? How to handle last-minute cancellations.

Schedules change. Someone gets the flu. You plan a weekend away and suddenly decide to leave Friday morning to beat the traffic instead of Friday night. Makes sense. Here’s the thing, though: when you tell your employee that she gets to take Friday off, this will not be good news to her unless you pay her for the day. Remember, when she accepted the job, she committed her time to you and your family. Her weekly budget depends on the pay you guaranteed her up front. She can’t pick up another job for the day to make up the difference. If you cancel at the last minute, you still need to pay the worker you employ.

When a worker cancels: Although a worker calling in sick can throw a wrench into your day, try to take a breath and remember that what matters most is the health of your employee as well as you and your family. It’s in everyone’s interest to make sure she stays home and rests. That’s why a generous sick day policy written into a work agreement is a good idea.

There can be other reasons why a worker might occasionally ask for an unscheduled day off: her own child is sick; her car broke down and she has to get it to the mechanic so she can get to work tomorrow. Try to give her the latitude you’d want in your workplace and resort to your backup plan: for parents, this could be a nanny-share in the neighborhood or a last minute sitter-booking service. For seniors or people with disabilities who employ home attendants, it’s always a good idea to know which if any of the workers you employ have a flexible schedule and can be called in at the last minute.

If cancellations become common: This is, of course, a significant problem that needs to be discussed. Try to determine if there is some kind of family crisis or other underlying issue that your employee can share with you to help explain what’s going on. Consider whether the situation might resolve and if you can wait it out. These can be very difficult moments in a domestic work relationship. Do your best to listen carefully, consider all your options, and then figure out the path forward.

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