Advice to a solicitor who took time off to care for her mother without telling her firm

Dear Ash,

I have had to take time off recently to look after my mum as she is currently undergoing treatment for cancer and has no one else to look out for her after her treatments at hospital. I have not told my employer and have so far called in sick or taken annual leave when my mum has needed me. I was recently confronted by my manager about the number of my absences. I am not sure whether I should have revealed why I have been absent from work so frequently as I am not sure I would get a sympathetic ear?

ASH replies:

You are effectively caring for a dependant and it is not easy having to juggle work commitments with such family commitments. I can understand why your mum would be relying upon you if she feels she has no one else. I think what you are doing for your mum is admirable but you need to be upfront with your manager about your situation.

The reason I say this is that on the face of it, you will potentially be viewed as someone who is lacking in commitment and essentially unreliable due to your absence record. You need to be able to explain yourself in order to allow your employer to put matters into context. Many firms are flexible in providing leave to employees in order to deal with family commitments. However, such leave normally only covers adequate time in which to allow you to put alternative care arrangements in place.

Your employer may however, allow you to take further annual leave or unpaid leave to allow you to assist your mum over a longer period and to seek alternative help. You should contact some cancer charities in order to see what help is available in terms of voluntary support and assistance. By seeking such help you would be helping yourself as well as your mum.

Although there is no guarantee that you will get a sympathetic ear from your employer even after you reveal the truth, you will at least be setting the record straight and be able to vocalise your commitment to your job.

  • “Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor:, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.
  • Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Meanley, Manager in the Registrar’s Department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or .
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