I have ongoing issues outside of work which are out of my control and now affecting my performance at work. My elderly mother often becomes ill and must go to the hospital. She has carers that call when she is ill, but as I am her only family member they contact me whenever there is an incident. Unfortunately this very often while I am at work, and she has nine hospital admissions over the last 18 months. Also my husband has just been made redundant and diagnosed with depression.

Initially my employers were understanding but are now monitoring my every move in the work place which is adding to the pressure I am already under.

They called a meeting with me to discuss their concerns and when I mentioned my mother they just looked at me as if to say 'so what' and made no reply, which made me feel as if I was making excuses.

My question is should they take issues outside of work into consideration?

Thanks to all for your replies. To answer some of the questions -

I am based in the UK.

I went part time a number of years to help my mum, when her health started to fail, which was fine, but, her health has gone down hill very quickly over the last two years with numerous health issues.

She now has carers but there have been endless concerns with them, to name a few switching off the electricity at the sockets - including the fridge, not being able to use the key safe and saying that's it's broken when it isn't, not heating her meals up correctly - I could go on and on and on. Anyway I have sort to it out.

She has the district nurses coming in on a regular basis and I have to check / chase them as it's different ones each time and the last one doesn't bother to follow up what the last one has done.

There are other agencies I have to check and chase, but these are the most consistent headaches and I don't want to bore you all with it all.

The point is that my employers were fully aware of my situation and were supportive up until a month ago, but now don't want to know and suddenly deem it as an excuse rather than - hey she has been dealing with this for the last two years and she has always come to work and we've had had no reason for concern, maybe it's now affecting her performance -

Also I have been working at the company for over 30 years with no issues.

I don't think I'm being unreasonable?

I'm obviously dispensable as we all are - when required.

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    Thanks Sharon. I edited that info into the question. Feel free to make more changes if you like. – David K Nov 16 '15 at 21:26
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    dol.gov/whd/fmla – Xavier J Nov 16 '15 at 21:32
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    @Sharon can you add what country you are in? Since some people are answering specifically based on the situation in the USA, which may or may not be appropriate to you. – Carson63000 Nov 17 '15 at 2:34
  • Your managers said nothing when you mentioned your ill mother probably because they don't know what to say and/or was unprepared. You shouldn't take it too personally. – Dan Nov 17 '15 at 14:31

Note that this answer only applies to the United States.

Technically, this is what the FMLA covers and protects employees in dealing with their jobs.

FMLA is intended to allow employees to balance their work and family life by taking reasonable unpaid leave for medical reasons, for the birth or adoption of a child, for the care of a child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition, for the care of a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness, or because of a qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee's spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a military member on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status. The Act is intended to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families, to promote the stability and economic security of families, and to promote national interests in preserving family integrity. It was intended that the Act accomplish these purposes in a manner that accommodates the legitimate interests of employers, and in a manner consistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in minimizing the potential for employment discrimination on the basis of sex, while promoting equal employment opportunity for men and women. - Link To Article

FMLA is most commonly known (amongst employees who have never needed it) as the 'new mother law' or the 'broken leg law' where it is used for an illness, or medical situation, that lasts for a fairly well-known period of time.

What most people don't know is it can also be for covering intermittent leave. I have used it to cover medical needs of my spouse with a major medical health issue for years. Without going into too much personal information, I had a spouse with a major medical health issue. At any given moment during the day she could lose the ability to walk, talk, or even feed herself. Granted that was worst case scenario. But I was able to, thanks to an Intermittent FMLA coverage, leave whenever she "needed me" and my job was protected. For years.

You can contact them via phone.

1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243)
TTY: 1-877-889-5627
Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Section 825.702.(a) : mid-paragraph quote

The purpose of the FMLA is to make leave available to eligible employees and employers within its coverage, and not to limit already existing rights and protection.

The FMLA doesn't appear to be coverage for sub-par work. However, keep in mind that if work is being churned out at a subpar level by an employee due to a medical condition and it could be remedied by taking some protected leave from work via FMLA, then FMLA is the way to go. If the employee: isn't best suited for a position; can't operate at the level necessary to keep the job; etc. Then I don't believe that FMLA can protect them nor does it appear to have been developed for that purpose.

Can FMLA be used to protect employees who are gaming the system? Yes and No?

Again. Check with DOL by calling their toll-free number. Ask your questions to a professional that works for the organization that manages FMLA practices and investigates it as well.

  • @JoeStrazzere - I have access to some law tools - a simple search shows that FMLA in essence does. Especially if the employee has a good performance history and has been with the company a long period of time. Obviously you can just get rid of the job during a bigger cut but it seems to offer a level of protection. A company would treat this like they would treat any employee on medical or maternity leave. – blankip Nov 17 '15 at 5:59
  • I get it. From MY experience, if the 'quality' of work is suffering then normal channels are used. It's quantity of work that is really protected. I don't USE FMLA for myself, but I could (from my research) due to sleep apnea. I could use it to protect me from being treated poorly if my apnea caused me to oversleep and miss alarms. But if my job is to make widgets, and all of my widgets are subpar, I don't believe that's covered. I think it boils down to protection from losing my job due to medical-related issues. If your work is suffering, take FMLA time off to recoup. – randomblink Nov 17 '15 at 12:30
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    FMLA is for the US. The OP said her husband was made redundant, which is language more typical of the UK. – Eric Nov 17 '15 at 15:02
  • Well, that would be less than optimal as I know nothing about UK processes. Altho, I'm willing to bet they have something similar to protect. But no REAL idea. shrugs – randomblink Nov 17 '15 at 15:03
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    If she is in the UK she should be allowed time off to organise care for a dependent. gov.uk/time-off-for-dependants/your-rights This doesn't really allow for poor work performance and she would be expected to make proper allowance for non emergencies. – Dustybin80 Nov 17 '15 at 15:20

You have a couple of issues here that need to be dealt with separately. If you are in the US @randomblink is giving you some good advice about FMLA. However, the protection could be a problem if the business itself has less than 50 employees. Call them.

If you are in another country, there must be an equivalent to the Department of Labor that manages labor laws in that country. Look them up and call them to inquire about your legal protections in such a case.

But really the problem you need to address, especially in the US where most employment is at will, is your performance while you have these pressures. I know it is hard, I have been a caregiver, but you have to learn to leave everything at home when you come to work and perform to the best of your ability while you are there. You need to have things set up so that someone else can take over if you get called away for an emergency. It is stressful I know, so if you need to cry, take a break and go hide in the ladies room to cry.

Since you say your husband is unemployed and depressed, your job is critical to your family and you need to prioritize doing it well when you are there.

Even though he is depressed, can your husband take on being the contact point and only calling you in if there is such an emergency that you have to go right then? Can you delay going to the hospital until after work? This would help you out and might make him feel more useful.

Try to make other arrangements to make up the time as well. Maybe you could go sometimes at lunch, take a slightly longer lunch and then stay later that night? Maybe you could make arrangements to work from home if there is physical care you need to do sometimes (or in order to make up the hours). Think about what kind of a plan you could make to help the work get done while you are off with the emergency. Perhaps you need to cross train some people. The office is going to be more lenient if you have a plan.

When there is no emergency, make an effort to put in more effort than usual. The better you perform when there is no emergency, the more slack the office will give you when there is. Others are taking up the slack for you, when you can, try to return the favor which will make them more willing to help you out.

But even then, I have seen good employees let go if it goes on too long especially at a smaller company that has less room for others to pick up the load. After all they have to get the work done and they can't replace you unless you are gone. So even though it will be difficult with your husband unemployed, you need to start creating a financial cushion it case this happens. Reduce your spending as much as possible. Put as much as you can into a savings account, you may well need it 2-3 months down the road. You may also need to look at reducing your 401K contributions. Yeah that is unfair, but losing your home because you were saving for retirement isn't really a great choice.

Most people with depression work, so don't let that become an excuse to not try to find work. Once those antidepressants kick in (it can take up to a month unfortunately), it needs to become a priority. If he has a hobby like woodworking or is good at repair work, you might also consider if he can make some money while he is looking through a small home-based business. Anything he can do to reduce the burden you are under will help.

And see if you can find a caregivers support group. You need someone you can unburden yourself to and they may have tips for how to manage working through this.


Sure, to a point.

Everyone to one degree or another has stuff that is going on outside of work that impacts work. Your employers need to be aware of that and accepting that stuff happens.

On the other hand, that sort of stuff happens to everyone. If your performance is impacted way more than others', or if you're unable to improve the personal issues, then that becomes more of a problem.

And one thing to remember is that outside of a few protected situations, it largely doesn't matter if your employer should take them into consideration or not.

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    The important thing to remember is that the FMLA was created to protect employees in the kinds of situations the OP appears to be dealing with. I don't believe she was asking for special privileges on a whim, but as a matter of mental health for herself in a time of chaos. – randomblink Nov 16 '15 at 21:45
  • @randomblink - absolutely. My answer was made before the edits that disclosed what sort of issues they were. I will look to update it when I have more time. – Telastyn Nov 16 '15 at 22:47

This is an answer from personal experience. Recently my boss also told me I wasn't being the real me. My wife is pretty sick and that drained a lot of energy. I got my work done, but wasn't as sociable as I used to be. I also didn't initiate a lot of things on my own.

What you have to remember is that there is a conflict of interest. Your top priority is taking care of your mother, your work's top priority is making sure you are making them money.

What you could do is make an agreement with your boss/manager that doesn't cut one way, but both. Your employer shouldn't take all of the hits, but neither should you.

Examples of solutions are:

  • Working flexible from home (when needed by your mother you could make up the time later)
  • Unpaid leave
  • Paid leave
  • Some sort of caretaker agreement, which differs from country to country. (zorgverlof in the Netherlands for example gives you the day off, but leaves you with just 70% of your salary for that day).
  • Guaranteeing to work x out of n days in office.

The most important part is to communicate with your boss. Let him understand that the situation is costing more energy than normal circumstances and that you would like to know how the both of you can help each other.


USA seems to be covered so I'll use the perspective of my country. This is an issue you need to deal with. Yes it will be difficult, but letting your personal life impact on your working one for an indefinite and prolonged period would eventually see you looking for a new job in some countries.

You could address the issue in a couple of ways, firstly work offsite and make sure you're producing quality and quantity.

Get a care provider of some sort for your mother.

Quit and go on some sort of welfare which will support both you and your mother if available.

Everyone has problems, most employers are happy enough to put up with them until it becomes a burden. They're businesses, not charities, the less they hear about personal problems the happier they are.

I do an equation whenever a worker wants to take time off for his/her grandma's funeral. Is his/her productivity an asset to me, will I get back in goodwill what I lose in time for a while? If yes, then I don't care if their grandma seems to die and get buried every year (which actually seems to be the case with one chap). If not, then I'll start looking for a way to let them go with the least fuss and expense.

One IMPORTANT thing when discussing with your employer is showing that you are at least TRYING to find a long term solution yourself, instead of expecting them to deal with their end.

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