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childcare: And who is taking care of my child now?


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There is a lack of daycare places in Germany. There are currently 320,000 in caring for children under the age of three. Those who have a regular care place for their child can consider themselves lucky. But they can also get into scheduling difficulties, for example if the daycare staff go on strike, the daycare workers unexpectedly fail or a short-term business trip is pending. Then what can parents do? ZEIT ONLINE has collected tips on how to prepare for an emergency.

What obligations do I have towards the employer?

First things first: the employer cannot force his employees to come to work in such an emergency. "It is regulated in the German Civil Code that employees are allowed to stay away from their jobs if their work performance is impossible for personal reasons," says Nathalie Oberthür, a labor lawyer from Cologne. "This also includes a short-term, unpredictable bottleneck in the care situation." However, parents should check again beforehand whether their employment contract explicitly excludes this case.

How long you can be absent from work is not precisely stipulated by law. "In the case of sick children, five days are assumed. In addition, there is a right to unpaid leave of up to ten days a year," says Oberthür. It is clear that employees should really have exhausted all possibilities in order to find support. In any case, you should coordinate closely with your employers and unsubscribe in good time, otherwise you risk receiving a warning. "Ideally, your company should clarify in principle how to deal with such a situation - before it comes to an emergency," recommends the lawyer. Can the flextime be set so that care is still possible? Can you do some of the work from your home office? An office can possibly also be converted into a playroom, especially if several parents are affected by an outage. Incidentally, anyone who wants to bring their child to work needs the approval of their superiors.

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In addition, if a union resolves a long-announced day-care dispute and the parents have not arranged for replacement care in good time, they are not allowed to simply stay away from work. In this case, they have to use their vacation days to look after the offspring.

What options do companies have?

Many companies now rely on family-friendly measures, such as in-house emergency support in order to retain employees or to convince new skilled workers. According to a study by the Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft, such initiatives are important for four out of five companies. And they take action: 36 percent of the companies surveyed, for example, actively support fathers in taking parental leave and part-time. Such and similar steps are also rewarded by employees who have not yet had children of their own: 80 percent of employees appreciate being family-friendly. It is worth asking your own company in advance whether there are any offers for emergency care or whether these can be set up.

The frozen cake manufacturer Coppenrath und Wiese, for example, cooperates with the Evangelical Family Educational Center in Osnabrück, which arranges child minders and educators. And some universities also offer help, for example the University of Cologne, which offers parent-child rooms, children's play areas and nursing rooms if employees have to bring their children to work. Parents can also borrow play boxes to make their office more child-friendly.

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More and more companies are also entering into collaborations with institutions such as the pme family service or famPLUS in order to be able to offer childcare in an emergency. The pme Familienservice, for example, has twenty daycare centers that can also look after guest children at short notice. Care is often possible the next day. In addition to such guest children's places, the provider famPLUS also arranges loan maids or loan shops. However, it is important here - especially with small children - that both of them know each other and have already gotten used to each other.