Is It Legal To Bring a Child To Work?

It is a problem that every parent has to face at one point or another. Your child gets sick, it is a teacher planning day or you are required to work a holiday when the daycare is closed. While we would all love to be able to take time off from work on whim, many times we don’t have that option. This can leave parents with the need to take their children in the workplace. The question then becomes “Is it legal to bring your child to work?”. 

While it is completely legal for you to bring your kids to work, the business can still be in their rights to fire you for this action. There is a lot to consider before your little one tags along with you to the office including your industry, the company policies, and the well-being of the workers. By examining these factors, you can easily determine how to proceed if your childcare falls through.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice. Please consult a licensed attorney in your state if you have questions or believe you have a legal situation.

Considerations For Children In The Workplace

Workplace Safety

Do you work at a financial firm or in a processing plant? This distinction is key when determining if it is kosher to bring your children in the workplace. If your child is going to sit on the floor of your office and color while you type up reports, they are likely not going to pose a safety risk. 

However, if you are employed by a company that uses heavy machinery or chemicals, it is imperative that you find alternative care. Having a child underfoot in this type of working environment can pose a threat to you and your coworkers. Moreover, many of these types of businesses have clear-cut policies in place about any type of visitor, no matter their age. 

Why? Besides the obvious safety issues, most insurance policies for these kinds of establishments won’t cover an injury of a non-employee. Additionally, they likely won’t provide coverage for a workplace incident that was caused by a person who was not supposed to be at the facility in the first place. This, in turn, puts the financial responsibility on the company if an incident occurs. 

Finally, depending on the age of your child, even a business office can pose a threat. Unlike in your home, most companies tend to go without installing childproof outlets and safeguarding cabinets that may house supplies like scissors, paper cutters and cleaning products. If your child were to consume something poisonous or hurt themselves on company property, the business could be liable. 

The threat of a potential lawsuit or the requirement of a big payout for workplace injury is always going to be a red flag for employers. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that a business might fire an employee who did not respect the safety of those around them. 

Workplace Efficiency

There is the concern of decreased productivity when kids come into a place of business. For the lucky few who have their own office with a door, you will have a bit more leeway with your little visitor.

However, for those who work at a department store, in a cubicle or on a sales team, this will likely not be the case. Bringing your children to work will be seen as unprofessional and disruptive to workflow. Your kid’s presence equates to less attention being focused on projects and customers. This brings the worry of a potential misstep due to your focus being elsewhere. 

Additionally, when working in a war room or open office environment, it is important to consider your coworkers and their ability to complete necessary tasks with added background noise and activity. A crying baby or toddler running around the room can be extremely distracting. Even if an older child is just being inquisitive and asking questions, it can also cause interruptions to your colleagues’ productivity. 

Workplace Professionalism

Certain businesses exude professionalism. When entering financial institutions, law firms and healthcare facilities, there is an expectation from employers and clientele. Additionally, many places don’t actually have written rules. Instead, there is an unspoken understanding between the employer and the employee of the proper office etiquette that needs to be maintained. 

This includes a lack of children in the workplace. An employer is justified in assuming that you will not be bringing your children to work. Respect that belief unless it is an emergency. 

Workplace Guidelines

First and foremost, it is always best to review your company policy regarding children in the workplace. Moreover, you need to accomplish this prior to an incident arising. Certain industries have to meet OSHA requirements and even have standards for employees that are minors. While they can’t be enforced for guests, they are a good measure to follow. 

Then, when an emergency arises, speak to your supervisor about how to proceed based on this information. If the scenario is one that you cannot control, such as your childcare falling through due to COVID or inclement weather canceling school, your employer may oblige!

However, if that is the case, it is also best to speak with your coworkers. If you share a workspace throughout the day, this decision will impact them as well. By giving them a heads up on the change in their working environment, they can better plan for their day.

Frequently Asked Questions — Bringing Your Children In The Workplace 

How do I approach my boss about having to bring my children in the workplace?

Obviously, your number one job as a parent is to provide adequate care for your child. However, making assumptions about bringing your child to work is disrespectful. Therefore, if the occasion arises, reach out to your boss immediately and explain the situation.

Reiterate that this will not become a regular occurrence. These are extenuating circumstances. Inform them that you will either need to bring your child with you for the day, work from home (if that is an option), or take the day off. Remember to apologize for the inconvenience. Finally, assure them of the methods that you intend to use to keep your little one quiet and entertained.

Most importantly, if your child is sick, it is imperative that you request sick leave. You don’t want to put your colleagues’ health and wellbeing in jeopardy. 

Can I legally take off work to care for my child when childcare is not available?

When adequate childcare is unavailable and your employer has policies in place that prohibit kids in the workplace, you do have options. You are legally allowed to take off using paid sick leave, vacation and personal days or accrued PTO. In contrast, those individuals who have just started at a new job will not have acquired these days. Thus, an unpaid day off will be your only option.

Normally, if these occurrences are rare, then they are usually met with understanding and cooperation. Conversely, if you are the employee who is always calling out, tread lightly.

Can I bring my children in the workplace on “Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day”?

Each year on the fourth Thursday of April parents have the opportunity to take their kids to their place of business. This gives them a glimpse of the working world. Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day is one of the few times where more companies will openly invite children into the workplace. Nevertheless, it is always best to double check with your boss about this planned visitation. 

What do I do if my childcare becomes unreliable?

A dependable method of care is imperative for any working parent, especially those that are doing it solo. Good parents do their due diligence to find a reputable establishment. Unfortunately though, many times a predicament occurs where their care falls through more regularly then it should. Thankfully, there are many affordable and trustworthy options that you may not have considered!

Final Thoughts 

There is no law in place that prohibits the presence of children in the workplace. However, every company has their own policies on this matter and can enforce them as they see fit. Unfortunately, many choose to limit or not allow kids in the office. This is in order to maintain a productive, safe and professional work environment.

When an emergency arises, the majority of employers will be understanding. However, based on the type of work you do, the business can choose to send you home without pay or they can dock you a vacation day. Moreover, if this type of incident occurs regularly, they are within their rights to terminate an employee.

The most important thing to consider is the type of work being done and the equipment that is being used. If it is a safe environment, then the next question to ask yourself is “what is the expected business behavior?”. Is it an upscale business or a laid-back place? Finally, there is a huge difference in bringing a twelve-year-old versus a two-year-old to work. This is another key detail that you should consider before ever making the request. 

Other important factors to contemplate are the length of time they will need to stay, how they will remain quiet and entertained as well as where they will be spending their time in the office. These are all topics to present to your supervisor when breaching the topic of office guests. Having the information from the start can help your case and show that you are still serious about completing your daily tasks!

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