My employer cares for 3 slightly disabled ladies 24 hours a day. My job is from 2-6pm, to take these ladies to and from their jobs.

My employer is threatening to fire me because other employees failed to show up to work on time, to take on from where my shift ends. My employer told me that it is against the law to leave these ladies alone even though they have been left alone before.

I don't see how it is my responsibility to worry about the laws and such being that I am just an employee. I have 2 children that are babysat only until 6:15 and I can not just stay because she has no one.

I understand that this can happen periodically but I have already told her before that I am unavailable so I would think she should make other arrangements. How can I effectively address this situation with my employer to sort out the possible delays my coworkers may have?

  • @Laura I took an edit to your post, and included a question from what I understood from your writing. Please review it and tailor it with any details I might have skipped. For next time, please try to give your writing a bit more of style and review, perhaps checking tips on how to ask might help you.
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 20:38
  • Have you spoken with the employees who show up late?
    – Evorlor
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 3:43
  • 4
    How late are they? How often are they late? Regularly 5 minutes late or very rarely much later would probably have a different answer than regularly 30+ minutes late. The "acceptable" amount of lateness could possibly also be dependent on culture. Commented May 24, 2018 at 12:25
  • 2
    What have you done so far? Have you talked to your boss about this, inquired about flexibility or compensation on their part (to cover the cost of an extra babysitting hour, for example), or... well, done anything other than asking here? Seems to me like discussing options and gauging your employer's position is the first step in figuring out what options you even have. Commented May 24, 2018 at 20:16

9 Answers 9


This might be a good situation where you need to talk to your boss. When what your co-workers do affects your job, that's when it should matter to you.

So go to your boss and explain the situation.

Hey boss, Steve is often 5-10 minutes late. However, I need to leave right at 6, because my children's caretaker needs to leave at 6:15 promptly. So I have the choice of leaving our ladies alone, or having my children left alone, neither of which works. How can we change things so that Steve arrives before I need to leave?

Perhaps your schedules can be modified so they have a 5-10 minute overlap. Perhaps your schedule can be changed so it starts 5-10 minutes earlier and ends 5-10 minutes earlier. Perhaps they can change it so that Jamal comes in after you instead of Steve, because Jamal is never late. But all of those are changes your boss has to make.

If you're looking for changes you can make, especially if your boss is not interested in solving this problem, then perhaps you can change your childcare so that their coverage lasts until 6:30, to give you a larger buffer.

A commentor suggested talking to your co-worker first. That is good, if you still have that option. If you're in danger of being fired, you may need to problem solve with your boss immediately. If you do go to the boss without talking to him first, try to do so without throwing him under the bus - you're trying to solve the problem, not get him in trouble.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 20:55

For most jobs, its assumed (if not contractually required) that you wait till your replacement arrives. I don't know if you have read your job contract but I would assume this is the case. Even in jobs where you are not caring for another individual (say working for book store) you are required to wait till your replacement arrives before leaving the store unattended. Since you are caring for living beings, I think this is even more important. Refer to your contract to be sure but I would guess something along the lines is mentioned.

I would be VERY careful with this kind of thing because being fired is possibly the least of your worries. If something happens to one of the people you left alone, then a possible lawsuit could occur.

As a disclaimer, everything I have mentioned is based on assumptions about your job, so just keep that in mind.

  • 11
    I completely agree. While inconvenient to you, the hours of your job are dictated by your employer, not by you. You need to discuss your needs with your employer. If they cannot be met, then this is not the job for you.
    – Keltari
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 21:12
  • 11
    While useful advice, and certainly something OP should consider, this doesn't actually address the question: what can OP do?
    – Tas
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 5:22
  • 52
    @Keltari: The problem here is that the hours are dictated by the employer, and then changed by the other employee.
    – MSalters
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 7:27
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    @Keltari Reading the question, it looks to me that the OP's contractual obligation is 2-6. When I used to work shift work like that, I started working at exactly my shift start and left exactly when my shift ended, I couldn't be forced to work past the end of my shift, regardless of inconvenience to my employer, and I couldn't be fired for it because of policy and state law. I do, however, agree with rereading their contract. Because if the contract states 2-6pm, it's then the employer's problem to solve, not OP's.
    – Jake
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 15:44
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    @Jake Were you working on caring for people? If so, were you the only one there? What would happen if one of the people you were caring for got injured or died because they were left alone? I can't imagine people would hire an employer who allowed for his employees to just leave the clients alone just cause their replacement was late. Commented May 24, 2018 at 16:06

Since there is no region tags on the question this answer is coming from an American perspective.

Depending on the contract both you and the person who failed to relieve you could be reprimanded or fired.

There are certain jobs which have additional requirements on employee attendance. These jobs typically involve health and safety of individuals or facilities and if no one is present can result in loss of property, injury, or death. Someone from HR or management normally informs you of these requirements before you sign on the dotted line, since by signing you are now carrying legal liability if something happens and you were missing in action (MIA). These job have two common and very important rules:

  • Do not show up late or miss a shift
  • Do not leave if your replacement has not shown up

If you do not know if your job is one of these types you need to ask your manager. If your job is one of these, then your coworker broke the first rule and you broke the second rule. Which would put both of you in hot water and at risk of being reprimanded or fired.

How can I effectively address this situation with my employer to sort out the possible delays my coworkers may have?

The answer strongly depends on what I previously mentioned. If you agreed to show up no matter what and not leave no matter what, then you have no options to easily address this. If you cannot handle the extra burden of the possibly of having to stay for an extra shift in a pinch, then you need to find a different job that does not have this requirement. However, what if it is not?

Overlapping shifts

If this situation is as dire as your manager is portraying and yet there is no legal binding on you the employee to show up or stick around, then your manager needs to make allowances and buffers to prevent these situations from arising. The easiest thing to do is have overlapping shifts. On one of my previous projects which required 24 hour monitoring, we had four eight hour shifts to cover the 24 hour period. Each shift had at least a one hour overlap with the next shift, so if someone was running late or was a no show, we had at least a full hour to confirm that they were simply running late or find someone else to cover it before the current person's shift ended.

The challenge would be to convince your manager to do this, since it will cost them more money. If you go this route you will have to be diplomatic, take ownership of the problem, and act like you deeply care about the problem and you desire to see it fixed. Even then there is no guarantee that they will do it.

  • 1
    This is a good answer. Work as a support personnel in a 24 hour operation center, the shift workers are expected to be there no later than 30 minutes before their shift, to make allow the previous shift to leave. It works out more or less even throughout the week, you get there a little early before your shift, but are able to leave when the next shift arrives.
    – Donald
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 22:50
  • Actually, 4 x 8 hour shifts have two hours of overlap. Commented May 23, 2018 at 0:28
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    @DmitryGrigoryev Only if you assume all overlaps are the same. Maybe one's one hour long and two others are 2.5 hours long. I don't know why that would be done, but if particular times of day are even more important and sensitive than others, and/or more subject to delays in employee arrival (rush hour traffic, say; in Los Angeles that covers a significant fraction of the day, much more than an hour), then this asymmetry could arise. Commented May 23, 2018 at 8:57
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    The above is true but it is also extremely important to mention that in some regions it is also considered child abandonment to not pick up your child from a caretaker before a predetermined "drop-dead" time. Where i am from (midwest US), it is common for daycares to have a "stay-over" window for late pickups (where certain financial penalties exist) but to also have a drop-dead time where a call is then made to law enforcement. Depending on the OPs situation they could really be stuck between a rock and hard place.
    – user48276
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 9:08
  • @DmitryGrigoryev in my case I said at least one hour because as zibadawa timmy pointed out they were not the same length. We had a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and core shift. The core shift had significant overlap with the 1st and 2nd shift and was the shift all the development team was on.
    – Anketam
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 10:41

Realistically, you can't do much about it, short of changing jobs or finding a different babysitter.

Leaving a disabled person unattended is not an option. Think about your babysitter here: what happens if you don't show up at 6:15? Will you find your kids wandering in the streets? No, your babysitter will stay with them until you arrive. You may get scolded at, or have to pay extra, or both, but if you arrive late and find your kids unattended, your babysitter will most probably lose their job; and if something happens to your kids while they are unattended, your babysitter will have every reason to worry about the law. Judging by what your employer told you, the same rules apply to your job.

Nobody can guarantee to be 100% on time. Of course, if your coworkers show up late often, it makes sense to warn them first, and complain to your boss if the warning has no effect. But I don't see how someone can promise to be on time all the time and hold to that promise. Someday, they will be stuck in traffic, tweak their ankle, or have an emergency at home. If you can't handle such situations on your side, the easiest fix for your boss is to hire someone instead of you, not to find you coworkers that are 100% on time.

If I were you, I would ask your babysitter about what happens when you come late. Maybe you will just have to pay extra, and maybe (though unlikely) your employer will be willing to cover that expense for you. However, if the babysitter drops you after a couple of late show ups, you'll have to find a different one if you're willing to keep this job.

  • One could argue that by accepting a job, you are agreeing to make a good faith effort to show up on time (especially in a case where it involves care for someone disabled or otherwise unable to care for themselves). Emergency situations aside, each employee should plan layover time (e.g. being 10 minutes early if traffic is not certain to be light) to avoid being late to this particular type of job.
    – GOATNine
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 18:27
  • 3
    That is true. I'm simply pointing out that relying on colleagues being always on time without a backup plan is not going to work. Commented May 23, 2018 at 18:31

Unfortunately when you have children you need to prioritize them over your job. And that is understandable, I do it myself.

The best option is to find work that doesn't have this problem. Not the easiest thing to do, but you have spoken to your boss and your family responsibilities haven't been important to him/her.

I recommend job hunting, soldiering on in the meanwhile for the revenue stream but leaving as soon as you can.

Realistically a 15 minute margin when dealing with kids is not a great idea to begin with.


If your fellow employees consistently show up late, and your employers response to that is to threaten to fire you instead of fire them and hire more reliable people.. I think that speaks volumes of your employer. Your boss has no spine, and is looking for the person they can push around easiest, which seems to be you. The boss may have tried getting on the other employees cases, but they push back, yell, are some higher-up's kid that thinks they can get away with being late or .. who knows.

A boss must have a spine in order to stand up to the people that are not following the rules. If you get to work early or on time every day, but your fellow employees cannot, then they should be replaced. Since it seems you and your boss don't see eye to eye on that issue, you need to go find new employment.. at some place that will value your timeliness, consistency, and has fellow employees that do the same.. and a boss that holds everyone to the same standards and punishes those that don't maintain the standards, not the ones having to fill in for the ones dropping the ball.

  • 4
    and 'leaving alone disabled persons' is something totally acceptable?
    – Kinaeh
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 11:40
  • 2
    Without knowing the nature of the disability it's impossible to say. Commented May 24, 2018 at 13:51
  • Why did you assume that the employer didn't warn the co-worker who showed up late as well? Commented May 25, 2018 at 7:51
  • A consistently late employee may well require disciplinary action, but in the scheme of things it's a minor scheduling issue. An employee leaving vulnerable clients unattended simply because it's their scheduled finish time is a far bigger problem, because it means the employer is not providing the 24 hour care their clients are paying for, and potentially leaves the employer open to serious legal repurcussions if anything happens to the client while they're unattended.
    – timbstoke
    Commented May 25, 2018 at 14:21
  • try to arrange baby sitting until a later time
  • inform your boss always when the other person shows up late
  • if problem persists, ask your boss for compensation for the longer baby-sitting
  • keep records of all the times the other employees were late
  • talk to labour council, union rep or a lawyer
  • in general, I don't like your "I am just an employee" approach. I would say it like this: obviously it is the duty of an employee to react to unforseen events in an appropriate way. I am sure your baby sitter would wait for 15 minutes if it's needed and so should you. However if the event is foreseeable to your boss (since you informed her/him of every occasion and this happens in a significant amount of days), then it is his duty to find a solution (e.g overlap of shifts)

There is something missing from all the other answers that I want to add:

In employee law, there is a concept called "organisational fault" (translated from my native language, the english legal term might be different).

In your case, your employer has the responsibility to figure expectable things such as delays into his planning. That is his job as a manger. He has to ensure that the handoff can happen as planned. He has to a) either ensure your replacement arrives on time or b) plan in additional time for the handoff. Doubly so if there are actual handoff activities and the handoff does not happen in zero time.

A proper planning would have your shift go to 6:05 and your co-workers shift starting from 5:55 so that minor delays, handoff activities and such things do not endanger the handoff.

Your approach needs to kindly and softly (since you are already on warning!) remind him of that duty. Point out that there have been issues with the handover before and that the two of you need some organisational steering to ensure this works properly.


Why should the OP loose money because someone else screws up? Overlapping shifts, even for 15 or 30 mins should be paid by the employer if it is that sensitive, his competition can afford it, too.

The temporary solution is to pay the babysitter extra and get the money from the coworker who is late.

Or even better from the employer and he can get it from the coworker.

This is not a fun gathering with friends and being late for dinner, this is serious stuff. Get a lawyer if you can't find a solution with them.

  • 9
    In what legal system would you be able to get money from your coworker?
    – Daniel
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 8:13
  • 1
    Its possible for OP to talk to the manager for additional pay but has nothing to do with the actual question. Commented May 24, 2018 at 17:18
  • 1
    Well the coworker certainly should not be paid for the time he is absent. Where does the money go, then? If the employer simply keeps it, that's appalling, a perverse incentive for the employer to cause this situation for profit. It should go to OP, but if the coworker is pocketing it instead, then yeah, I see a cause for action. I would go after the coworker first to avoid the awkwardness of suing my employer. Make the coworker prove they're not getting the money, then you'd be in a good bargaining position with the employer without ever having to name them. Commented May 24, 2018 at 19:17
  • 2
    @Marten: good luck explaining that logic to any judge. Certainly not happening anywhere in Europe!
    – Daniel
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 22:40
  • 1
    @Marten Legally, the co-worker owes the OP nothing and has no obligation to her to be on time or even work at all. Commented May 25, 2018 at 7:44

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