do I have to fire someone due to his lack of child care?

A reader writes:

I have an employee who is unable to obtain childcare when he is on call, which is an essential part of his job, and the job is not safe to take a child to. Therefore, we may not be able to keep him on.

I supervise a team of maintenance technicians who rotate being on call 24/7 for one week every month. Being on call for emergencies is an essential part of the job, as they respond to calls such as water leaks that could cause property destruction, air conditioning calls (this is a 24/7 facility and the upper floors can get above 90 or higher degrees in the summer), lock-outs, and other urgent calls that can’t wait until business hours. We have a small team of four, so it’s essential that everyone take part in the rotation so no one is on call 24/7 too often.

We make it clear to everyone before hiring them that on-call shifts are a requirement.

It has recently come to light that one team member is unable to find childcare for late night emergency calls and has been taking his child with him. For very obvious reasons this is not OK, but the child is too young to leave at home. (We didn’t know this was happening until his ex-wife found out, got a court order that prevented him from both taking the kid with him and leaving him home alone, and also alerted us.) However, it’s not exactly easy to find a babysitter at 3 am when you have to rush into work immediately. His family is not always available, and it’s not like there are daycares open.

It’s not fair to the rest of the team to leave him off of the emergency rotation, which is an essential part of the job, but it seems cruel to let someone go for not being able to find childcare.

I am proposing we give him two months off of the rotation to figure something out. After that, I’ll have to have that difficult conversation with him.

Is there an alternative that I’m missing here? We are waiting on advice from HR, but I know they’re going to tell me that he can’t remain in his position if he can’t meet the schedule requirements.

This really sucks for everyone involved.

You did the right thing when you ensured he knew about on-call requirement before you hired him, and you’re right not to want to shift an extra burden to his team mates.

On his end, he’s undoubtedly not taking his child along for the fun of it. Finding last-minute child care in the middle of the night when you live alone would be impossible for most people. Bringing the kid with him isn’t the right solution, but it’s easy to see how someone desperate could have landed there.

Would you be open to attaching an incentive to the on-call shifts to make other employees more interested in volunteering for more of them? For example, if each on-call week came with a bonus or, say, extra days off, you might be able to fully staff them without this employee, and without making the rest of your team resentful if he’s not doing them. You don’t have to do that — again, this was a requirement of the job that he agreed to up-front — but if you’re looking for a way to make this work, it’s something to consider.

Otherwise, giving him two months to figure something out is reasonable. That also gives him time to job search if he thinks he’ll need to. If he’s not able to make it work by the end of that period, you wouldn’t necessarily need to fire him; you could mutually part ways on good terms. And while you wouldn’t be obligated to offer severance, you might choose to in recognition of the difficult circumstances.

(Also, this probably isn’t your place to suggest, but if he wants to stay in the job, could he have his kid stay with his ex-wife on the weeks he’s on call? There may be reasons that’s not a good idea, but otherwise it might be something he could consider.)

{ 615 comments… read them below }

  1. CzechMate*

    I know this is a small team, but is this type of arrangement typical for the field? Emergency calls will obviously come up, but I wonder if there’s another way that some companies handle this to help accommodate their employees while also ensuring the work gets done. (This may be standard protocol, I’m just curious.)

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. I’m thinking the whole week at a time is too inflexible for his custody agreement, plus it may cause issues for hiring in the future.

      1. Antilles*

        In my experience having a whole week at a time is usually MUCH preferred in these sorts of industries rather than smaller chunks.

        Knowing that the third week of every month is my on-call week is very easy to plan in advance for. It just becomes a known thing both for yourself and among your friends/family that Ant is not available the third week of every month, rather than smaller chunks where it’s constantly adjusting on the fly.

        Also, mentally, I found it much easier to have a full week rather than shorter stints. That week stinks, but when it’s done, you know have X straight weeks of never having to think about it; somebody else’s problem. By comparison, when a place I worked did “two days per week”, it was pretty much always in my mind that ugh, Thursday is my on-call day.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          This is a good arrangement IMO. And Ant mentions a regular schedule you can plan around is important.

          And if you have 4 people trying to cover 7 days each of on-call with the weekends and holidays being the WORST because you’re on call for 24 hours versus just the evening and night non-work hours and if someone wants to take a week off of work, they need to find someone else to take their on-call shifts during that week.

          Whereas if you’re on call a week at a time, you just can’t take vacation or go out of town that week. You can’t commit to anything 100% during your on call week, but you can still do stuff in town that allows you to get into work within the required timeframe.

        2. KHB*

          But if it’s not preferred for everyone, what then? I remember this coming up on another post several years ago, where people were talking about the potentially discriminatory aspect of requiring on-call time to be taken in full weeks, when some employees couldn’t work on certain days of the week for religious reasons.

          If the really important underlying thing is having a regular schedule, it seems like it must be possible to come up with a regular schedule that gives full weeks to the people who want full weeks, and split weeks to the people who need split weeks.

          1. Kyrielle*

            It gets messy fast, though – on a team this small, if there’s any imbalance in total time covered it’s going to feel unfair. We went through this when our team transitioned to on-call support and had three people who could do it – all hired without anticipating on call – and one for religious reasons couldn’t cover sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. There was on-call equipment that was handed off between people, so we couldn’t easily coordinate back-and-forth. If you don’t need any equipment trading it’s probably doable, but in our case a transfer for a weekend was hard so that person took every M-Th for a while with others covering the weekends…which felt unfair to that person, but then when we switched to they take a week and then one of the other two takes a weekend-week-weekend and then they take a week and then…. Well, then it felt unfair to the other two.

            In a larger team, balancing time can be done more easily. And in a larger team, incentives for being on call can also help more. (Some years later, that same team had someone who was planning a massive home remodel and was Very Happy to spend lots of time on call in exchange for more money.)

            But with four people, whether it can be made to work around this guy’s custody schedule or not gets messy fast depending on the individual circumstances on the team. Fingers crossed that something here in the comments offers a workable solution for the OP, but there may not be a way to make it workable with a team that small, depending on his custody schedule and flexibility.

            1. Java*

              It gets messy fast, though

              Yea, honestly this kind of schedule-making seems like a big burden to place on the manager who would suddenly have to devote a not insignificant amount of time planning out a shifting calendar that makes everyone happy – and ultimately there’s a chance that everyone’s preferences aren’t compatible.

              In a small company there’s a good chance that there just aren’t the resources to devote to properly building and maintaining a more complex schedule.

            2. Anon for this*

              This. I would be highly annoyed if someone got hired and then said they couldn’t take full weeks of being on call. my coworkers and I make it work by trading weeks or individual days if we need to attend events when we’d normally be on call, but if someone were to regularly not be able to take call on specific days, forcing me to NEVER be able to do anything on those days… I would be angry.

          2. Snoozing not schmoozing*

            With only four people? That would be a scheduling nightmare. They know the schedule going into the job as it is now. With a variable coverage schedule, the best the employer could say is “pretty frequent emergency coverage that chang0es all the time, and as the new person, you don’t get to choose.”

          3. metadata minion*

            I think this is one of those situations where ideally you have enough people to be able to split up on-call hours in a way that works for everyone, but you’re very rarely going to end up with that perfect mix.

            In my old position we did a Saturday rotation because *nobody* wanted to work Saturday for an impressive assortment of reasons. We were all ok — if not thrilled — with Sundays! But not Saturdays. And in a team of 5, that’s just going to be what happens sometimes.

          4. Roland*

            I don’t see any reason why split weeks would make things any easier though. Having your 7 days as one chunk of 3 then one chunk of 4 some other doesn’t make it any easier to find a babysitter last minute at 3am.

            1. KHB*

              The idea is that assigning him split weeks might make it possible for him to do his on-call work only on days when he doesn’t have the child. This is assuming that the parents have split custody, with the mother taking some days of the week and the father taking others. Obviously, if that’s not the arrangement they have, then split weeks aren’t going to help anything.

              1. Sandi*

                It occurs to me that if the on-call is easy to switch out (i.e. it doesn’t matter if it’s a different person each day) then the guy could offer to exchange days with coworkers to keep his job. He might be willing to take the less-popular days of the week if he doesn’t have his child, and that way the other coworkers don’t feel like they are losing out. This wouldn’t work if all else was equal, but I might ask the other 3 if there are days of the week that they prefer and would be willing to switch out, and see if that can be managed. It might be too complicated to work around, but if he has the child every second weekend then maybe he can do two long weekends a month (still having to do 7 days total) if that other person prefers that?

                1. Rebecca*

                  It would make sense to offer to work on holidays too, in exchange for not being on call other days. Like if you offered to cover Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, people will be a lot more forgiving about those 4 extra Wednesdays each that they had to be on call. That could help ease at least part of it.

            2. Quill*

              Yeah, I don’t think there is a solution in structuring the on call that fixes it for this employee. If the on call week is known about with sufficient advance warning, then whether it’s 3 days one week and 4 days the next or 7 in a row is not going to make a huge difference in whether the employee can have those be custody times for the ex.

              If the on call times were significantly shorter (one or two days at a time) that calculation might change but fundamentally, the guy does not have an adult to supervise his kid at night when he’s called out, leading him to chose between one unsafe situation and another. You aren’t going to be able to find childcare at 3 AM

        3. Rose*

          I wonder if there might be a win/win here like this employee taking all weekends and then other employees still know they have to do week days only every three week?

        4. Ellie*

          My old job was like this, but it was voluntary. Those who volunteered for the on-call roster got paid significantly more for holding the phone, more again if they had to provide telephone service, and more again if they had to drive to site and fix the issue in person. We never had to pressure anyone into it because there were plenty of volunteers, but it was mentioned during every interview just to make sure, because you never know when the regulars might decide to all go on holiday. The company was contractually obliged to provide the service, so everyone on the team had to be OK with it.

          It was exactly as described above, one week at a time, Wednesday to Wednesday, and depending on how many people wanted to do it, it might be once every 3 weeks or once every 12.

          If this is once every 4 weeks, that’s not a lot of room to have the others cover his shift. In my experience, when people were one week on, one week off, that was tiring. Honestly I think your plan of offering 2 months to find a solution is more than fair. He really needs to work this out with his ex-wife, or his parents, or he needs to find another job. None of this is on you.

        5. EmmaPoet*

          I’m currently working a similar shift set up. We know when our weekends shifts are, so we’re never caught off-guard. We can then plan around them.

      2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        The whole week rotation enables planning, so someone knows they have 3 weeks where they can e.g. have a drink, go outside the on-call area.
        It’s unlikely that a single parent would chose this job, but not all jobs are suitable for everyone.

        1. KHB*

          It’s precisely because the job isn’t for everyone that I’d think that employers for these types of positions would want to be flexible when they can. Because they can’t necessarily assume that they have an infinite available candidate pool, so they can always fire this guy and hire someone else. So if they have someone who’s willing and able to get up and tend to emergencies at 2:30 in the morning – but whose circumstances mean that he just can’t be available for 7 days in a row – I’d think the employer would want to look into reasonable accommodations to make that work.

      3. Just a guest*

        is it possible to split the on call hours between staff? all night, all day, all week sounds less than ideal even in normal situations. maybe have one person on call afternoons/ evenings and a different person on nights?

        1. MigraineMonth*

          It’s assumed that “on call” hours are hours available to work, not actual hours worked. So the person on call would refrain from drinking/travel/sole childcare/other things that couldn’t be interrupted for that week. In my experience, if the on-call person has to work more than three or four hours, it gets escalated and more people get called in to help, so the on-call person would be working maximum 12 hrs on a workday or 4 hrs on a weekend.

        2. Gatomon*

          It gets hard to coordinate the handoff when it changes that often. Either you have a single number to call, which means the call forwarding needs to be adjusted constantly, or you need some sort of published document with who’s covering what days/times so people know who to call. And that document only works if you have someone directing those calls, not customers/clients calling for help directly.

          My only out-of-the-box thought is finding some college kid who’s willing to be woken up and make it worth their while. I had friends in college with lots of babysitting/au pair experience that I’m pretty sure would’ve been open to this, as long as they knew the week and an idea of frequency. Money and access to someone else’s fridge goes a long way.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Okay? Not every job is appropriate for every person. If you can’t make the clearly spelled out parameters of the job work for you, then it’s not the job for you.

          1. Anon for this*

            I’m not sure what the alternative would be, though. Like in my position, we rotate being on call so everyone’s on call one week out of every four weeks. If we were to hire someone who can’t work Sundays, ever, that means I would lose one in three of my existing Sundays where I can go out and do something, while still having to keep my regularly scheduled Sundays where I can’t go out and do anything. That’s not fair to anyone else in a small team, and we’re salaried, so we don’t even get paid more for working on call.

            1. Pickle Shoes*

              Wouldn’t the alternative be to simply not hire someone who can’t work the required schedule?

      4. SALC*

        One of the suggestions that could be discussed with him is whether he can arrange with the other technicians to break up his oncall schedule… if he’s able to cover extra weekends he might find takers

        I have worked in a job with oncall where one teammate needed 24hr off call for the sabbath on their week, but they were always accommodating about helping others out for last minute issues (oops, forgot my kid had a recital today, thanks for taking over for the evening so I don’t get paged in the middle etc) and took oncall for a lot of the Christian holidays

        It could be a conversation worth having, though it wouldn’t possibly put the rest of the team in a hard position of not wanting to have this guy lose his job even though they don’t want to switch it up

    2. Utility person*

      I’ve worked in utility construction for almost 20 years, it’s very common to have emergency on call set up this way. Usually it’s a predictable schedule known in advance (like 1 week on every 6 weeks), people know what their on call weeks would be months ahead of time.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I had a similar question. Is there more that the organization could do to prevent the need for so many after-hours call-outs? My dad worked in a job for YEARS where there was a need to always have someone on call in case alarms went off that something was wrong. I don’t know how often he was on call, since it was a bigger shop than what the LW describes, but he wasn’t getting constant calls.

      If there are constant problems with water leaks, AC breaking down, etc., it’s worth looking at whether there needs to be upgrades to prevent this stuff from happening. It doesn’t solve the problem that this person needs to be available when he’s on call, with a childcare plan. But it would probably be easier to come up with a solution if he only got called out occasionally, rather than regularly.

      Alternately, could the company consider hiring someone to do the night shift, rather than having people on call?

      1. I Have RBF*

        Alternately, could the company consider hiring someone to do the night shift, rather than having people on call?

        This. If there are frequent issues that require night call-outs, it might be more feasible to hire someone to be there at night to cover those issues. Sometimes 24×7 coverage requires shifts instead of busy on-call weeks.

        1. Ruby Soho*

          My thoughts exactly. Anywhere I’ve worked that ran 24/7 always had at least 1 maintenance person on each shift.

          1. IngEmma*

            I mean, same for 24/7 manufacturing and we 1) still do call backs if we have major machine failure overnight & 2) that’s a totally different situation from house call / contractor trades where you’re responding to external calls.

        2. Antilles*

          OP clarified this in a couple comments below, but there are weeks where you get zero calls and others where you might get five calls.

          It’s very unlikely the budget (and upper management) would support hiring an extra person for 8+ hours per night / 7 days per week with that kind of workload because hiring a whole extra person is going to be noticeably more costly than the current system of providing bonuses during on-call weeks.

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          But there’s nothing to indicate that these issues are frequent enough to justify hiring a separate person for night shift. Based on places I know with similar setups for on-call, it seems very likely that most weeks only have a couple issues after hours (if any!) that can usually be resolved quickly.

          You don’t hire and train a full time night shift person if you expect them to average 2 hours a week of actual work.

          On-call shifts make sense for some jobs. He knew what the requirements were when he took the job, and he’s unable to meet them. This is no different than an employee taking a job in a backwoods location when they don’t have reliable transportation, or taking a night shift position when they know they can’t work nights.

        4. Tiger Snake*

          DO we know there are frequent call-outs, though?
          Their workload seems very dependant on whether their clients have accidents like locking themselves out. I’m not seeing anything that suggests there’s anything that they actually have to DO after hours regularly, only ad-hoc. We aren’t told how often the staff actually get called and have to go in.

          This seems like the sort of scenario where you can go 9 months without any issues at all, and then bad luck will mean the one employee gets called 4 times in one week. For a company of only four employees, making someone night shift just for that could be cost prohibitive.

      2. Kevin Sours*

        It’s not clear how constant these calls are. An average of one call out a week is going to be enough for this to come up a lot but nowhere near enough to support a night shift.

      3. IngEmma*

        This is going to be so industry dependant. But I think we might be talking about a service role not an internal resource role.

        I’ve worked in companies with both, and in both cases there really truly haven’t been great ways to avoid out of hours calls.

        If it’s trades work for a facility, yes maybe they should be looking at their PM schedule. But if they’re on call general plumbers …. Well someone somewhere is going to have their pipes burst at 3am because the pipes don’t care about business hours, and someone’s job is responding to out of hours emergencies. A lot of people don’t have the flexibility to work a job like that, but that doesn’t mean that the need for a 24/7 plumbing service doesn’t exist.

        In most cases, in my experience, it’s actually not something that’s super well solved by having a night shift. Emergency / escalation calls need a responder, but they’re not happening all night every night. In my experience, on call time is not exactly fun for anyone, but it normally pays much better than roles without that expectation (sometimes as OT/ on-call bonus pay, but often with higher base salaries due to the on-call requirements.)

        The higher pay can make it complicated when it’s not something that’s feasible for people – because they’re likely to be upset & concerned about having to take a pay cut for their lack of flexibility (which is one thing if the flexibility is about your personal WLB boundaries, but sucks when it feels like it’s linked to something complicated like your health or caregiving responsibilities and therefore not really a choice in the same way.)

        But ultimately, these jobs pay better because people wouldn’t do them for much less money. I don’t think supply and demand for salary/ labour works the way a committed free market capitalist wants us to think it does (ie necessarily fairly) but I do think it make sense that being routinely inconvenienced is going to solicit higher pay. And not everyone is able to be inconvenienced like that without it causing other issues. Which can limit the pay you’re able to get. Which sucks.

        This might just be an unfortunate situation where the job isn’t suitable for the way his life is structured right now. It sucks, but it might not be realistically something the company can or wants to change.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Those are all fair points. It could certainly be a case where prevention can’t really solve the problem and that there isn’t enough going on to justify a night shift. Though maybe it could be. My guess was this was something like a property management company, which is responsible for dealing with a bunch of different breakdown issues. The wide variety of things they have to cover could mean there’s enough going on to justify a night shift person.

          The potential change in pay structure is also relevant. People might not want to do it without their on call pay.

          Still, figured it still made sense to ask the LW the questions, since there may be a “secret third option” between the current approach (where he has to have childcare) or him leaving the job.

      4. Samwise*

        These are all things that might not happen a lot, but when they do, you gotta take care of them.

        If OP’s employer doesn’t own the properties that need the service, they can’t do anything about upgrades.

        Sounds like they are servicing a number of properties— it may not be one place that’s always having some physical plant problems.

    4. Dino Smash*

      I thought we were supposed to give OPs the benefit of the doubt that they know what arrangement works best for their company/the norms of their industry. If they’re clear about their requirements and the other co-workers are fine with this requirement, then it’s on the employee to either figure out childcare or realize this job won’t work for him.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I think this primarily applies when they say in the letter that X Solution won’t work. Like, if the letter had said that changing the on call schedule wasn’t a possibility, we shouldn’t argue with them about it. I don’t think this rule precludes us from suggesting approaches the person hasn’t thought of. Particularly when the commenter is asking what arrangement tends to work best in the industry.

        1. GythaOgden*

          I agree in certain circumstances, particularly when an OP might not be a reliable narrator, but in this case she knows her field best. I’m kind of disappointed that Alison hasn’t blue-boxed this to state that maintenance has its own rules and to stick to the issue at hand as to how to tackle this situation within the constraints of the field.

          The commenters themselves also need to acknowledge where you lack that experience of the specific field. There’s just no way maintenance is going to be without an on call requirement and no way that a child is safe on a site like that, and so yeah, the OP is asking for ways to raise both those non-negotiable issues with her employee, not what we think about those issues.

          Sorry, but if you’re not in maintenance as a field (I actually am and I’m learning a lot), you cannot question the needs of that field properly. It’s different enough from the normal office work that predominates here that it’s pretty necessary to take OP at her word about her requirements from her employees.

          1. ThistlePig*

            I agree completely. A lot of folks here seem to forget that blue collar jobs exist and come with physical and logistical constraints.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      Yes; I believe it’s pretty common. It’s actually pretty nice. On-call one week per month ie every 4 weeks so the schedule is well-known in advance and the other three weeks you can plan trips, vacations, other things.

      It would also work fairly well for a child custody arrangement that was 1 week on and 1 week off.

    6. Sparkles McFadden*

      Being on call one week per month (or every six or eight weeks) is standard in a lot of industries. Being scheduled in a week-long block is the most manageable way to do this.

      1. MyStars*

        my spouse was maintenance for an apartment complex. I am confident this is OPs industry. Some weeks there’s nothing some weeks, everybody’s heat stops working at 2am. doesn’t have to do with poor long term upkeep, just the nature of apartment living. Spouse was o. a team of two. Every other week on call was hell on our vacations and on looking after elderly family, and ultimately led to leaving the industry. Never could find a solution.

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Until the on-call guy in any particular week decides not to answer his phone. Then they start calling others who aren’t expecting it.

        Anybody who’s ever worked in IS/IT for any length or breadth of time will tell you that.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yeah, but that’s when you start looking into why they aren’t answering their phone.

        2. DyneinWalking*

          So? One person deciding to ditch a work duty is a work performance issue with that specific employee. This can happen no matter how you arrange on-call duty, whether it’s two days a week or one week per month.

    7. pcake*

      Decades ago, my mother worked in computer repair, and they had the same arrangement. Each week, a different person was on-call. Their work was essential – they had to trouble-shoot and repair computers in airports, police stations and hospitals where they needed those computers up as soon as humanly possible.

      Btw, when I worked unexpected night shifts, I had a semi-live-in nanny. She needed parttime work, didn’t mind sleeping over, and all her food and extras were included as well as her pay. She used to bring her son over, and he’d play with my son till bedtime. I can’t see another way to make needing a babysitter available quickly at random times in the middle of the night unless a neighbor or nearby relative volunteers to help.

      1. Al*

        When I was a teenager, I occasionally provided overnight babysitting for a friend of my mom’s (a nurse) that was basically just me sleeping on the friend’s couch so her kid wasn’t alone in the house.

        1. WS*

          +1, as a teenager I did this for the neighbour across the street (she wasn’t a single parent, but her husband worked on an oil rig one fortnight on and one fortnight off and occasionally their shifts clashed). She told me when she was on call and if she actually needed me she’d call and I’d go across the road and stay the rest of the night.

    8. Inkognyto*

      This is maintenance is there any reason why someone cannot work 2nd shift or overnight to fix things as part of the normal schedule? and if there’s a major problem the person walks over and does it?

      You add some extra $ for that shift and be done with it.

      1. pcake*

        In the case of my mother’s job in the 80s and 90s, the kind of repair the people on call did was much more specialized than the general maintenance. Perhaps that’s the case here, too.

      2. Ex-Teacher*

        If the amount of work is highly variable (i.e. you can go several weeks with 0-1 calls, and then have 10 calls in a week) then it’s likely that paying a full salary for a night shift person is not viable, costwise.

      3. Anon for this*

        If it’s maintenance, they can’t have REGULAR assigned tasks at night, because they’re noisy and people are sleeping, and if the emergency tasks aren’t cropping up frequently enough, it doesn’t make sense to pay someone to work those hours as a shift.

        My workplace has looked into hiring someone to do tasks at night, and what it comes down to is, there’s just plain not enough work that needs to be done at night, specifically, because we’re supporting people who largely work during the day, which means the day time shift people would already have seen and responded to anything that came in during the day. Same thing for weekends, so we couldn’t even compensate for one person being unable to do the few weekend tasks we need to do by just telling someone “okay, your ‘weekend’ is now Monday and Tuesday and you work Wednesday through Sunday now”… there just wouldn’t be enough weekend work coming in to sustain a full shift consistently.

    9. JSPA*

      shift work with only occasional night hours is unhealthy enough that it can make sense to pay one person to be permanent night shift, even if that gives them a much reduced set of tasks, and gives everybody else more. If possible, i’d first check if anyone would be neutral or positive about working all-nights, And whether the rest of the team would be willing to pick up the extra daytime work.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        A lot of people seem to be assuming that these on-call shifts involve frequent responses and substantial extra time working at night.

        It seems most likely to me that the opposite is true. Most nights are probably uneventful, so being on call just means being available for the possibility of a call. And a call after hours isn’t necessarily during a time you’re asleep… so of the emergencies they get, a large percentage are going to be in the late afternoon/evening vs middle of the night. Calls that actually wake you up or keep you up super late are probably uncommon.

        Having a night of disrupted sleep once in a blue moon is much more tolerable for most people than consistently working night shift. Not to mention how unfeasible it is to employ someone full time for what is, likely, just a few hours of work per week.

    10. Hosta*

      A whole week is a pretty common rotation window in tech at least for small teams.

      That said, I’ve worked out other arrangements with team members before. I never wanted on-call on Thursdays at a previous job. So a co-worker and I split our weeks Sun – Wed and Wed – Sat. Software automatically took care of forwarding calls to the right person so there was no gear to hand off. This employee could try to find someone to work a split like that with.

      Or if they have a one week-night and every other weekend custody arrangement they could potentially agree to cover a Tuesday evening if someone else would cover the Wednesday evening when they have their kid. And swap with someone on the weekends they have their kid. I think the midweek one day trade might be easier for folks to agree to. Maybe a co-worker would love to have Tuesdays free to coach their kid’s soccer team.

      But working out a trade like that requires there’s someone else on the team interested in such as trade. And if they’ve been doing this a while they may have arranged their life around an “every 4 weeks I’m oncall” schedule.

    11. Professional Lurker*

      We do it the same way in our company. The difference is, we have a larger team (currently it’s 10 Field service engineers) and only 5 of them are on the on-call rotation. This way, people who absolutely cannot or don’t want to do it are allowed to opt out, while those on rotation get an incentive of a monthly bonus. The calls are not frequent, and many of the issues can be solved remotely (it’s really no more often than once every few months that someone has to go on-site after hours), so there’s not much grumbling about it.

    12. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

      Sounds to me like this is multifamily property management so this is very much the industry standard.

    13. Striped Badger*

      I was actually under the impression that a FORTNIGHT was the typical arrangement across industry. I read the letter and and my first thought was “oh this is a super considerate company”.

  2. JoMarch*

    Can you work with him so that, rather than him having to ask his ex to take the kid for his on-call weeks, you only assign him to be on-call when he doesn’t have the kid?

    1. ZSD*

      This seems like a reasonable solution to me as well, so long as their custody agreement is such that there is at least one week a month when the kid is with the mother. It’s possible this employee has 100% custody, or the kid spends every Monday-Wednesday with him, or who know what.

      1. Rosemary*

        Most of my friends with shared custody have their kids at least some days every week. Perhaps the employee could shift the custody arrangement but if the custody decision was at all contentious (which sadly it often is) there might not be a lot he can do without really rocking the boat, getting lawyers involved, etc.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          Lawyers are already involved, since the ex-wife now has a court order to prevent employee from taking kid to work. The custody change to accommodate this work schedule seems fairly minor but I am willing to be this is a fairly contentious arrangement and it won’t be solved so easily.

          1. JR17*

            Depending on the age of the kid, a week is a long time to be separated from either parent. I think stretches of up to 4-5 days are most common with young children.

            1. JR17*

              But 5-2-2-5 is common, and it means you always have the kid either Monday/Tuesday or Wednesday/Thursday, plus alternating weekends. Could he take every Monday and Tuesday night, and then everyone else rotates in 5 day stretches? Not sure if that’s too much to ask the rest of the team (especially since weekends are probably the least popular days to be on-call, and he’s have none in this arrangement).

          2. RW*

            yeah my first thought is can he change the custody arrangement to make this work and my second thought was that if the ex wife is getting court orders the answer is quite probably no (or she might jump on this as a reason for her to get full custody, or whatever)

            1. tangerineRose*

              I don’t know. Maybe this was the only way she could stop the problem of their child either being taken places that weren’t safe or left home alone. I would expect any number of parents might go as far as they had to to keep their kid safe.

              1. Java*

                Yea, agreed.
                I have a lot of empathy for LWs employee and obviously, I don’t know their full situation but it’s hard not to raise eyebrows at the fact that it got to the point of being court-ordered to not take their child to dangerous work situations in the middle of the night.

                And even now LW is their boss trying to find accommodations with no mention of the employee approaching them to discuss the situation and help find solutions. LWs employee needs to step up and take control of their situation, even more so if the custody agreement is contentious.

            2. New Jack Karyn*

              I think that in most cases, the employee asking for a custody schedule change to accommodate his work requirements would not be grounds for his ex to gain full custody. It would actually a point in his favor, to try to get everything squared away so everyone’s on the same page and the kid is not being put in unsafe situations.

          3. AnonInCanada*

            Something also tells me this ex-wife will refuse any rearrangement of custody purely out of spite. Maybe if OP can find out which days the employee gets the kid and which days the ex-wife does, and schedules the on-call shifts accordingly, this could make life easier on the employee. However, whether or not this causes a disruption with the other employees is another matter.

            In other words: this sucks all around.

            1. Lab Boss*

              There’s nothing to suggest the ex-wife will reject anything out of spite. We can sympathize with this guy all we want but he was making a terrible choice and putting their child in danger, she took appropriate steps to deal with that. We have no way to know whether she tried a friendlier approach and he rejected it, or if she went straight to legal and workplace involvement.

            2. len*

              ?? What gave you the impression that the ex-wife is spiteful and unreasonable? The fact that she was concerned about her child being brought along on 3 am maintenance calls?

            3. e271828*

              Spite seems like a big assumption here. She’s got her own scheduling worked out. It’s up to this parent to be an adult and carefor his child responsibly.

            4. darsynia*

              It’s not safe nor is it good for a child to be taken to middle-of-the-night emergency maintenance appointments. It’s not prudent to leave them home alone. I find it absurd to think that a parent who is looking out for their child’s well-being enough to ensure that will not happy via the courts (which is usually a last resort, mind you) is being *SPITEFUL* about it.

              Sometimes situations are just untenable. That doesn’t mean the people involved are doing them on purpose.

            5. Starbuck*

              “Something also tells me this ex-wife will refuse any rearrangement of custody purely out of spite.”

              Is that something, misogyny perhaps? Because I don’t think the ex-wife is unreasonable to enforce the boundary of “child can’t be home alone OR at the workplace, figure out a 3rd option.” When figuring out that 3rd option is obligatory but clearly very difficult, unfortunately it doesn’t surprise me that she’d have to make it part of the custody suit to get the father to actually find a solution.

            6. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              This sounds like projecting? We can fanfic all we want but it isn’t stated that she was spiteful, just that the courts gave her the court order (not a given in any situation).

          4. 50% dad, 50% misfit*

            It seems like you are being supportive to this employee – it’s difficult to tell and I may be projecting my own experiences here, but is there some element of his ex using courts and now his employer to harass him? Assuming he’s a normal person, is it worth discussing everything with him and seeing if there are any other little things you can do to support him and his kid through a difficult time, like not giving out information about him and his shifts to random callers? A spurned ex can be as bad as a stalker… Again, maybe just projecting my own experiences here, and acknowledging that taking a kid into risky environments is not okay.

            1. JSPA*

              This presumes that “taking your kid to do HVAC or electrical maintenance at 3AM” and “leaving small child home alone” are not problematic enough for her to take some moderately extreme steps to make those things stop. But both of those situations are, in fact, well outside the pale (legally speaking, regardless of your own personal sense of risk tolerance).

              There are late-night sitters and late night daycare in some places (though they’re not cheap).

              The mom could be “vengeful” (it happens), or angling for sole custody, or the employee’s lack of adequate planning could have her burning with the anger of a thousands suns; but nothing in the current situation unambiguously points in that direction. She spoke up to interrupt a dangerous practice and brought it out of the shadows. That’s all any of us know.

              1. Caro*

                Agree. It’s a very tough spot and I have a lot of sympathy for all concerned, but the mother, finding out her toddler was being taken out randomly in the middle of the night at risk to their safety and definitely not in their best interests, is not being vengeful and hateful. We do not know what she tried before eventually getting a court order. We really don’t. I would do the same thing as she did, if there were no other way to prevent this happening.

                He needs to re-arrange custody so that he can meet the requirements of his role, or change jobs. There are no other options. He could go back to court and make such a request very reasonably.

            2. Nina*

              Yeah, I feel like ‘do not take my kid into risky environments at 3 am’ is a reasonable boundary to have, and there’s nothing in the letter to indicate the ex didn’t raise it with the employee before going to court about it.

              1. tangerineRose*

                ‘do not take my kid into risky environments at 3 am’ is a reasonable boundary to have” This!

            3. NotYourMom*

              The employer says its unsafe for the kid to be on site. Hardly seems like spite to get a court order for a coparent who continues to endanger your child.

              1. Jaydee*

                Also, court orders aren’t necessarily quick. Usually you have to make some effort at resolving it outside of court first. If that doesn’t work, you file the appropriate petition or motion, the other side has a chance to respond, the court might order mediation, if mediation doesn’t work there will be a hearing, and it may be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before you actually get the judge’s order.

                Not saying there aren’t sometimes circumstance that can be faster than that, and I could make an argument for that in the case of a toddler being taken to dangerous job sites at 3 a.m. But that doesn’t mean a judge will go along with it.

                So it’s possible that his ex got the court order recently but started down that road back in like January. Which would mean he’s been taking a toddler out on job calls in the middle of the night for months.

                I’m sympathetic to not having childcare options, but having on-call nights be “take your child to work night” is not a solution. Either you figure out childcare, talk to your ex about rearranging the custody schedule to accommodate your work schedule, talk to your boss about rearranging the on-call schedule to accommodate your custody schedule, or start job searching. I’m a little surprised he never brought it up at work and asked to swap weeks or split weeks or something that would work around his custody arrangement.

    2. Annika Hansen*

      My friend works overnights as a nurse. She would be scheduled for one week and then have the next 2 weeks off (or something like that). She had an arrangement with her ex that he would take him those weeks while they were young. She felt the arrangement worked well.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      I was wondering this as well, especially since being on call seven days in a row seems like a lot, i.e. could you break up the shifts (for everyone, not just this guy) so that you’re on call a smaller chunk of time more often? Maybe his colleagues like the 1 week on call / 3 weeks not on call format so it might not be workable, but doing 3.5 days every other week could make it easier.

      1. Green great dragon*

        yep, or maybe some of the team would be open to a less formal switch, or he does every Friday and Saturday and they do Sun-Thurs every three weeks and he gets family to provide care on Fri and Sat.

        Maybe this isn’t solvable, but ‘your on-call must be measured in entire weeks’ seems more negotiable than ‘you must all share on-call equally’.

        1. Office Lobster DJ*

          I wondered about having him cover every Friday and Saturday, too. Getting their weekends back might just be a meaningful incentive for the rest of the team.

          1. a good mouse*

            I agree this could work – like you said its easier to arrange for two consistent nights, and if everybody else gets desirable days back they’re likely to be happy too. When I worked on a job that kept trying to get people to do on call shifts, I would have been more welcoming to a Sun-Thurs shift if I knew I got every Friday-Saturday and also two weeks off of being the one on call.

            1. a good mouse*

              I meant to say – it would really need to be Friday/Saturday though. If someone took every Tues/Weds, even if it meant my shift was shorter, I could see being annoyed I had to work every third weekend and they never had to.

      2. Lozi*

        Right, if there are certain days of the week that he does not have the child, perhaps he and another coworker could split two half-weeks? Unless he has sole custody, it seems there could be a work-around.

    4. Link*

      That’s assuming they have a shared custody arrangement. The dad here may have sole custody (which is admittedly rare with the north american system) for a variety of reasons and having the kid go to the mom for a week may not be feasible, both for custody/legal reasons, or just simply as school reasons where mom is too far away to do what she would need to do with the kid.

    5. Rosemary*

      I imagine that would require shuffling how on call is scheduled. My friends with split custody tend to have their kids at least some days every week; this call schedule is set up where they are on call for an entire week. I am imagine there are some who prefer to just do it all in one week, whereas others might be OK being on call 2-3 days per week every week – but the company would definitely have to make sure the other employees are OK with that, because you’d be shifting the terms of their employment.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Then again, if I had shared custody and realized I was going to lose my job if I couldn’t commit to being available on this schedule, I now have the option to either see if I can shift my custody agreement to fit, or start job searching. Right now the employee may think their current plan is working or the on-call shift is optional (whatever they were told).

        1. Rosemary*

          I definitely think if he can shift his custody schedule that is the most logical place to start. But if it was at all contentious, he might not be willing or able to rock that boat.

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Even if it wasn’t contentious (though it sounds like it is, given that the other parent reported this to the court), it means having to go back in front of a judge to get the custody agreement changed.

            1. Caro*

              It may not have been contentious though. A very reasonable person might have tried the ”hey, you can’t do that with our toddler” and run out of mechanisms to end the situation. We don’t know.

            2. Java*

              “Even if it wasn’t contentious […] it means having to go back in front of a judge to get the custody agreement changed.”

              That seems like a very small hurdle to ensure your kid is being safely cared for.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        Yeah, it’s all very well and good for us to propose that they overhaul how the on-call works, but the bottom line is that everyone who took this job has agreed to the schedule as it is. Changing that may shift the balance so that 2 of the other workers now have schedules that don’t work for them. The job requires 1 full week on-call. That’s what the job requires. It shouldn’t be changed just because this one guy can’t sort childcare for a job requirement he knew about. He can work something out with a friend. He can call his ex if he gets called out at night. He can change his custody weeks (arrangement? not clear on timings) so he doesn’t have the kid while on-call (could work well with the schedule being predictable between all the workers). The solution can’t be “change the terms of the job for everyone because the new guy can’t make it work for him”. If that’s the issue, and he can’t find a solution, then yes, he has to be let go, because this job doesn’t work for him.

        1. LC*

          Can you find out the custody arrangements and then ask the other 3 if they have any ideas to volunteer?

          Make it completely voluntary if they want to change it up eg someone on call every Monday night; someone else every Tuesday; rostering weekends etc etc

          If he’s the best coworker ever they might all be keen to make it work but if they’re a bit cool that tells you something too

          1. GrooveBat*

            I don’t think it should be on the other employees to solve what is one worker’s problem (and one manager’s response).

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I don’t thing anyone is suggesting anything this extreme, though. My read is that people are suggesting that the employer consider whether the set-up could be changed to make this easier. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the company should make major changes to the job that negatively affect everyone else, just for one person. Like, just give it a little thought, rather than keeping the status quo because that’s the way it’s always been done.

          1. GythaOgden*

            You don’t know the employer’s needs, though, nor that of the other employees. That’s kind of important information and going to be a hard barrier to accommodating this guy.

      3. not nice, don't care*

        Guy should get an official accommodation if he can’t make other arrangements. Rustling the established schedule of an entire team, even if well-meant, seems like a bad idea in terms of fairness and retention. It really sucked when my partner’s employer did that to their team, even though they liked the person getting special treatment.
        Definitely sent a message that being a team player, giving up nights & weekends, was not highly valued.

        1. The Other Virginia*

          I’m not sure what you mean by an “official accommodation”. No employer is required by law to provide any kind of accommodation for child care. Especially when he knew going into what the requirement was. I feel for the guy but this might just be a case where this particular job will not work with his other committments. It sucks but sometimes that happens.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Official accommodation? Having a child isn’t protected by the ADA, so the business isn’t required to negotiate with the employee about this, and it sounds like allowing the employee to skip on-call would be an unreasonable burden for the business to take on since the job requires an on-call shift. That would also likely cause resentment within the team.

          LW definitely shouldn’t change others’ schedules unilaterally, but it could be that a coworker would be willing to, for example, take Mon-Thurs of two on-call shifts if the employee with the young child takes Fri-Sun of both on-call shifts. It really comes down to the specific custody arrangement and what coworkers are willing to change.

    6. Sloanicota*

      This seems like the only workable solution, but I feel like the employee would have to take the lead on it, not OP. OP could ask if there’s any solution like this that would work for the employee but that’s probably the most they can do.

    7. lbd*

      It would only need one other employee who wanted to do two half weeks out of every four weeks to make it work for this situation. So, 2 employees still do a week on, 3 weeks off, and 2 employees split up the remaining 2 weeks.

    8. ScruffyInternHerder*

      This seems like the best option. Given that Mom got a court order preventing him from taking the child to work with him, leaving the child home alone, AND notifying the employer…I’m absolutely not saying that Mom isn’t unreasonable, but I’m also not saying there’s nothing here, either. Could be either one, or something in the middle.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        FWIW, it’s not unreasonable for her to say “hey, you can’t take an X year old child out with you at 2:30AM when you have to be busy working fixing an issue, because you’re not watching the child when you’re doing so”. Maybe he should have thought harder about if the job worked for him. Maybe he should have said to his ex “hey can we amend the custody schedule because I got a job but it requires [schedule]”. But it sounds like he just decided to take the kid along instead of any other solution, and his ex didn’t know and she was [rightly] annoyed at him putting the kid in this situation.

        1. Managing While Female*

          Yeah, as a mom I wouldn’t be happy about knowing my young child was going to a worksite in the middle of the night with their dad. I don’t think mom was necessarily being unreasonable here based on what we know.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            For the record, that’s where I’m falling…that Mom’s not being unreasonable here.

        2. Laura*

          Yeah, I don’t understand why everyone is jumping to the conclusion that mom is in the wrong her or that the divorce is contentious. I’m not in this situation, but hypothetically, if I found out my ex was bringing our young child to a dangerous workplace with him, I’d be pretty pissed and would absolutely get it in writing that he can’t do that anymore.

          1. 1LFTW*

            Yeah, the kid has been put in unsafe situations *twice*. The mom may have raised the issue directly the first time, when the kid was left alone. Then, when it happened again, she (quite understandably) felt the need for a court order to back her up.

      2. Double A*

        It definitely suggest that the custody arrangement is contentious and the two co-parents are unlikely to resolve it with a civil conversation.

        1. Rainy*

          I don’t think it requires a tremendously contentious custody arrangement to not want your small child to be left in a car/dangerous worksite/whatever unsupervised at 3am and to do whatever it takes to make sure that stops happening.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            No, but for the reaction to be “I’m getting a court order and reporting you to your employer” instead of “let’s arrange it so I have custody when you are on-call” certainly has an air of contention about it.

              1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

                If she did, and he said no for some reason, that’s also an indication that things are contentious. Here, “contentious” doesn’t mean that the mother is wrong or is a jerk. Just that they’re continuing to have a profound disagreement about what custody should look like. And that the disagreement is so intractable that they cannot resolve it on their own.

            1. Rainy*

              I mean, we do know now, because the LW commented, that it’s contentious, but we also don’t know how contentious it is or which of the two of them is causing the contention.

              I doubt the LW knows how this went down and so of course we don’t. The mother may well have tried everything she could think of and the court order *is* her last resort.

            2. fhqwhgads*

              Reporting it to the employer makes sense if she thinks the employer is aware and ok with it, rather the this happening unbeknownst to the employer. She’s basically notifying all parties in one swoop so they can’t agree to cover for each other.
              I’d say it wasn’t necessarily contentious before this happened but it absolutely is now.

            3. Caro*

              but they may have tried to be fair and reasonable about it. We don’t know. If I found out accidentally about something like this, even if I had always had a cordial relationship with my ex, I’d have been angry and very worried.

          2. SoloKid*

            Two options I see: “I’ll take custody on the scheduled weeks you are on call” or “I’d be happy to wake up at 3am to take our child”.

            1. NotYourMom*

              Wow, the sexism in that. Mom is not required to change her custody to cover dad’s work. Figure out a work/childcare situation is a him problem, not her. Plenty of single moms do shiftwork/on call and figure their schedule out without endangering their children. Dad needs to do the same.

      3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        If both taking the child to work and leaving them home alone are unsafe, then the mother had to act. She may have tried just asking him, or didn’t trust him to keep his promise not to do this.
        We don’t know, but we do know he took the kid with him without asking his employer – presumably realising it was forbidden. So he has been sneaky.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Yeah, I’m on the mother’s side here. The man has been putting his kid at risk. He knew when his on call time was – couldn’t he have tried to arrange custody so that he didn’t have his kid during his on call days?

      4. CommanderBanana*

        Oh, I beg to differ. It is entirely reasonable to tell your ex that they cannot wake your young child up in the middle of the night to take them to a worksite where it sounds like they will be spending at least part of the night either alone and unsupervised. They also cannot leave the child alone at night while responding to calls (house fires, anyone?).

        This is parenting 101. It’s sad that it’s taken a court order to get the message across. But it’s better than the kid getting hurt while home alone or at a jobsite, or having interrupted sleep.

    9. Daisy-dog*

      I was wondering about this as well. Some people do have predictable arrangements.

    10. Hyaline*

      Provided the parents have shared custody, absolutely—theoretically the custody arrangement is set, so if the employer is willing to be flexible and start with this employee’s schedule, they could build the on-call rotation around when he’s responsible for overnight childcare and when he’s not.

    11. Butterfly Counter*

      So rather than the guy work something out with his ex-wife, a friend, or even a baby sitter, the employer and other employees have to work a different schedule? That sounds terrible, especially if his employer and coworkers find the current arrangement best. These are part of the hours of his job. It’s on him to work out his personal life and child care.

      1. BubbleTea*

        Hiring a babysitter to work all night, every night for seven days in a row on the possibility that he’ll get called out would be astronomically expensive.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          Okay, so what? That’s the schedule he agreed to. I teach. My classes were Mondays and Wednesdays at particular times this past semester. If I had a conflict, I can’t ask my fellow professors to take every fourth Wednesday for me or ask the 60 students to move their schedules to Thursdays. I would have to figure it out like all people have to figure out how to make their work schedules and their life schedules cohesive. It’s on him, not his coworkers or employers. It’s nice if they would consider it, but it doesn’t seem to be an option here.

        2. Ellen N.*

          He could find a roommate who would babysit when he is on call in exchange for reduced rent.

    12. Berin*

      Others have chimed in on this thread that this is a really common schedule for call duties, which was explained to this guy prior to him coming on board. I would be really cautious about changing a long-standing call schedule for three other employees to accommodate one person.

      I absolutely think that flexibility makes a good manager, but I also think some of these comments are not considering the needs of the other employees who have been able to make this schedule work as outlined.

    13. Generic Name*

      This is how I handled things when I was a single mom. At the time, my ex and I split custody 50/50, so any travel or after hours work stuff that I needed to be away for I arranged to happen the weeks I did not have my child. It really wasn’t a problem, but my job was fairly flexible.

  3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Alison’s last comment is spot on. If this is a shared custody situation, just align his on-call weeks with the weeks he doesn’t have custody. This may mean that his coworkers will need to be a little more flexible about the weeks they have on-call duty, and OP will need to do a little more management for slotting in vacations, updating the calendar, etc.

    1. Rosemary*

      My friends with shared custody typically have their kids at least some days every week, it usually isn’t one week on one week off.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        Two of my single parent friends, did one week on/one week off.

        But both parents basically need to live in the same school district (driving distance to the kids’ schools) for it to work.

      2. Kate*

        …I am not sure that your friends’ experience can be extrapolated to cover everyone here. For example, literally none of my friends (or myself, or my partner) have that set up, and I know of literally one person in my extended network who does.

        Maybe this guy’s does, maybe it doesn’t, but neither your experience with scheduling nor mine matter here!

      3. allathian*

        I don’t know anyone who has this arrangement. Plenty of my friends and acquaintances still have the unequal one of the kid being with mom most of the time and with dad every other weekend and some holidays. The younger the kids were at the time of the divorce, the more likely this scenario is.

        For older kids, the most typical arrangement, at least in my social circles, seems to be one week with mom, the other with dad, and holidays are celebrated with whichever parent has the kid that week unless the parents are on good enough terms to celebrate holidays together.

        Kids who are old enough to go to school are certainly old enough not to “forget” the other parent if they are with one parent one week and the other parent the next. My parents are still married after 55 years, but when I was a small child, my dad traveled a lot for work. I still remember feeling slightly ill at ease with him the first few days after a long (a month or two) work trip when I was 4 and 5, but I’d certainly grown out of that by the time I was 6 or 7.

        That said, I think in this case the person needs a new job. He clearly can’t continue to put the kid in danger by either abandoning them at night or bringing them to dangerous worksites. The divorce is contentious, so the ex is unlikely to be willing to be flexible, and asking the other employees to change their schedules is also unreasonable.

        If it was a matter of him working nights regularly, it might be possible to hire a babysitter, but because he’s on call, it’s much more difficult to arrange.

    2. LW for this one*

      LW here. It’s a contentious custody agreement. He has the kid on varying days, but no whole weeks off. The ex does not seem to be open to different arrangements.

      1. Frieda*

        What he needs is someone reliable who he trusts with his kid who’s willing to sleep on his couch for a week out of each month so that his child is not alone should he have to go out on a call. Has he gone through his network of trusted family and friends to see if anyone would be available? Even a young adult (a college student, say) whose family he knows well would work presuming he can pay enough to make it worthwhile.

        1. Nonn*

          It’s not even a full week, if they are splitting custody every single week, it’s like 4 days.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I’m sure he’s well aware that’s what’s necessary, but it’s much easier said than done.

        3. LW for this one*

          I certainly don’t know anyone who could do that, so I assume he doesn’t either.

          1. Green great dragon*

            I could find someone willing to sleep in my bed for a few nights a month while I slept on the couch, if the alternative was I lose my job. It seems pretty much the only option left if LW’s confident no-one’s willing to change the work schedule, the childcare schedule, or pay for babysitting.

            Otherwise the answer does seem to be it’s tough, but this job won’t work for this person at this time.

            1. But what to call me?*

              Short term for an emergency situation, sure, but for many people they don’t know anyone who would be willing to do that as a long term solution. If he does, great! But I definitely don’t know anyone who I could ask to do that more than once or twice.

              1. Green great dragon*

                It’s only the nights he has his child, so if custody is 50:50 that’s about 4 nights a month.

                I’m not saying it’s easy, but there don’t seem to be many other options.

        4. Beth*

          I don’t think most of us have an adult in our lives who’s willing to sleep on our sofa a quarter of the time just in case we get called into work and need emergency childcare. That’s a pretty tall order.

          Many people have another adult living in the house (usually a coparent, sometimes a grandparent or other relative, occasionally a roommate) who’s able to be the responsible adult at home if they get called in. Some people have a friend or relative who lives nearby, will wake up if their phone rings, and is willing to be an on-call emergency childcare provider if needed. And a few people have the budget to hire a college student or other overnight babysitter for the week just in case they need care, and a guest bedroom that the babysitter can sleep in. But for someone who has none of those–and all of those involve a degree of luck–an on-call job is going to be tough to combine with single parenthood.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I do think that a roommate is an under-considered option. Yeah, you’d need to screen for someone who was trustworthy with kids, but given the cost of housing these days you could probably find either 1) an adult willing to exchange occasional childcare help for a discount on the rent or 2) another single parent to co-parent with.

            1. KateM*

              This does sound like a good idea! After all, so nice at a 3am call to just leave your kid sleeping at home instead of yanking him awake, get dresssed, and drag along to work.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        It is unfortunate, but it seems like this job just won’t work with him going forward. If the office was bigger (like someone was on only a few weeks out of the year), but 4 people is small and 1 week on, 3 weeks off seems fair and consistent.

        In the pie in the sky ideal world he has options, but they are expensive (nanny/babysitter for evenings and nights he has the child and is on call but that variableness of a few nights a week once a month makes it extra hard to find someone) or dependent on luck (family members or friends that stay with him on those evenings and nights he has the child).

      3. Smithy*

        In this case, I do think you need to look at seeing if the entire staff is open to completely changing their schedule to align with his custody schedule. Where perhaps the other three staff get a full week at a time, a month, and then his 3.5 days get slotted in between but more frequently?

        But I think the bigger issue with accommodating just his schedule is the countless number of other short/medium term issues that can arise and make you less able to be flexible for other staff. Things like someone having a death in the family, serious illness diagnosis of a family member or personal injury, essentially anything that might require 1-3 months of work arounds while also still being mindful that other staff may get sick, will want to go on vacation, etc. If one member of a very small team has both a very inflexible schedule AND has the entire schedule adjusted to accommodate them for the long term – it can really harm the ability to adjust for other issues for other staff.

        Small teams have to make due in different ways than larger teams – but I think that a degree of equity in how tasks are covered and how accommodations are made is important in that it can be far more apparent where extra support for one team member long term is removing the possibilities of others getting that help.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          No. Changing all the parameters of a job simply because someone new took a job without properly considering the schedule is the worst thing you can do. Why change what 1-works great for the employees already there and 2-was clearly spelled out in the interview process for one guy? It’s not the job for him. He needs to find something else, not upend the lives of three other people for whom this schedule works just fine.

        2. zillah*

          this puts the other employees in such a bad position, though. i’d feel so pressured to say “okay” if i was presented with this situation, even if it really sucked for me – i don’t think i’m alone in that.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        It isn’t, but CHILDREN. Won’t someone think of them?? /s

        The more I look at this letter and the other comments by the LW, the more horrified I am, both on the LW and the child and ex-wife’s behalf.

        1. e271828*

          The employee has backed everyone else into a corner with this move. They have to be mean to him and he gets to be the victim. Not impressed.

    3. fidget spinner*

      I don’t think it’s fair to ask his coworkers to be more “flexible,” honestly. It’s not reasonable to ask them to re-plan their lives around this guy’s schedule.

  4. DarthSlater*

    Could his on-call weeks be scheduled to coincide with non-custodial weeks? Assuming he doesn’t have sole/primary custody.

    1. linger*

      Per OP’s comment above, there is no such thing as “non-custodial weeks”.
      There is, in fact, no regular schedule for custody, only

      varying days, but no whole weeks off. The ex does not seem to be open to different arrangements.

      Which is unreasonable in itself, and increases the likelihood that ex may be litigating to be a nuisance (at least, and this is an important qualifier, in the version we are getting from the father via OP). Granted, her concerns about safety are valid, but if the ex is not interested in helping to find a workable solution, then she is also part of the problem.

      1. deinonychus*

        It’s not really the ex-wife’s problem, though. She has presumably made arrangements in her life to be able to be available for their child when she has custody- she might have changed her own job or rearranged working hours, set up daycare/babysitting, etc. If the ex-husband took a job knowing that it would have on-call, while having a 3-year old with him, and just didn’t arrange any alternative options or babysitting, it’s not up to her to change her life even more to accommodate him. It’s on him to either figure out babysitting or find a job that does not have on-call requirements.

        1. linger*

          We’re on shaky ground presuming anything much beyond what we have been told directly by OP (again conceding that there is potential bias in this account since we’re not getting the ex’s POV). What we have is:
          (i) this is an ongoing contentious custody battle.
          (ii) the periodic on-call requirement of the job is not a new thing; it pre-dates the separation by several years, and so is well known to the ex-wife.
          (iii) the current custody arrangements do not seem (to OP) to follow any predictable regular schedule agreed in advance, and so do not accommodate the 1-week-in-4 on-call rotation, and also, crucially, cannot accommodate any predictable rotation agreed in advance that could replace it. This is untenable for OP. And ex knows it. Maybe the ex has made specific lifestyle adjustments for a custody schedule, but if so, we have no evidence here. Certainly the employee has fairly blatantly failed to do so; but on the other hand, they’re being set up for failure if the custody arrangements are irregular and short-term.
          It is pretty clearly up to the employee AND ex to both start acting like responsible adults and sort their schedules out, if the father is to remain employed by OP. However, OP has no standing to force that to happen.

        2. linger*

          If we are going to make assumptions about the ex-wife, how about assuming there is an exactly parallel problem on her end: she has some sort of gig-economy employment with no predictable schedule, which therefore forces an unpredictable custody schedule. I wonder if we would we be as quick to say that obviously “it’s on her to … find a job that does not have” an unpredictable schedule?

  5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    I’m curious what his reaction was when this first came to light. How that all went down should influence how you address this going forward. I’m guessing he’s a good employee and generally reasonable; otherwise, you probably wouldn’t be trying so hard to keep him on.

    If there is no way to exempt him from the on-call rota, it sounds like you can approach the conversation as the two of you working together to solve the problem. He has to be available when he’s the one on call. He cannot bring his child to work. And we have to find a solution within a reasonable time.

  6. Colette*

    I was on call in a past job, and I wouldn’t recommend taking him off the schedule permanently, even if you offer incentives. A group of 4 people means everyone is on call once a month, which is a lot. (Presumably you can’t be too far from work, can’t drink, can’t guarantee you’ll have a full night’s sleep – there is a limit to how long that’s sustainable.) Giving him a couple of months to figure out a solution is reasonable, but if there isn’t one, you’ll have to be ready to hire ASAP or you’ll burn out the rest of the team.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I agree that by the time the two months’ grace period is out, the other employees will probably be pretty burned out by the time the new solution starts. I wonder if there’s a temp option or something to keep people from having to this more than once a month. I don’t know enough about the field to know if it’s practicable to hire an extra person for just overnight shifts.

  7. It Might Be Me*

    If it’s not possible to fix the schedule to non-custodial weeks, the two months is quite fair. The “incentivizing” taking call for other employees only goes so far.

    At a certain point extra money or days off when your kids are in school aren’t worth it. Even for co-workers without children at home, they have lives that they may not want to constantly place second to accommodate the co-worker’s schedule.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Also, incentivising would cost the company extra money which they are unlikely to agree to – presumably they already factored in the inconvenience when setting a salary to attract sufficient employees.

      1. Colette*

        Incentivising doesn’t have to be money – it could be “2 weekend days on call is equivalent to 3 week days” or “whoever works the on-call shift the night before gets a prime parking spot the next day”. But I agree that incentivizing is unlikely to help with only 4 people on the schedule.

    2. Not incentivized*

      Yes, I think I’d still be resentful regardless of how much incentivizing there was. If everyone else who is on call and has children can figure the childcare requirement out, then this person needs to as well. And if the others don’t have children that’s even worse because it comes across as non-parents having to pick up the slack for parents, which happens A LOT in workplaces.

      1. Dog momma*

        Not incentivized: as a non parent, I’ve been told that several times. by both parents and bosses. It gets really old fast. And I never expected any type of perk. It doesn’t happen in our industry ( health care).
        Back in the olden days..90s..we had 5-7 people out all over the course of about a year. Dr, nurses,extremely specialized techs( think life support people that were also RNs) & bio-med..with major illnesses, deceased (3!), surgeries. And the OR didn’t stop. Our service drove the financial for the facility.
        I have to say, we all took a deep breath, and picked up shifts. For several months. It was a fabulous team effort. Most people worked 12’s ,so if I remember correctly, could only do 2 more before they had to take a break. Others got less of a break than that. But we did it and it was awesome teamwork. I miss that. Most of us,are retired or have passed away….

        1. Dog momma*

          Addendum.. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in payroll, just to see the amount of overtime they paid out. This was a very specialized group of professionals. I’m guessing close to $1 million.

        2. William Murdoch's Homburg*

          I too am a non-parent and I hear this SO MUCH. It’s maddening.

          1. Caramellow*

            I could write a book about how cavalier my workplaces have been regarding my time vs my colleagues with children. The word Volun-told comes up a lot.

  8. Katie*

    If he has his child certain days of the week, could he work 7 days in a month that fall on that week rather than 7 days in a row?

    I have never been on call 24/7 so I am not sure if that is a reasonable ask for the rest of the team either.

    1. anneshirley*

      As someone who has worked and scheduled on-call, I wouldn’t say that’s a reasonable ask. Maybe the other three employees are flexible and willing, but deregulating the schedule prevents people from planning in the future and their own childcare and vacation plans. Imagine trying to schedule a weeklong vacation when you’re stuck with on-call every Thursday, or scheduling their own childcare. There’s nothing stopping OP from asking but I wouldn’t be surprised if the other techs reasonably pushed back.

      1. Princess Pumpkin Spice*

        I disagree. I think it’s a totally reasonable ask.

        Working 7 on-calls straight is a recipe for burnout. For the company I work for, rotating days of the week is actually the more efficient choice. And if you want to take a week-long vacation, you swap with someone else for your on-call. If the schedule comes out quarterly, plans can be made and shifts can be swapped.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Being on call doesn’t mean you’ll get called out at all. You might have 6 on call weeks where nothing happens after hours. BUT. You have to be ready. You can’t go out to a movie those weeks. You have to be prepared to leave a dinner if you’re called. You can’t go on vacation. But you may not get any calls at all. It’s just the nature of the job. They’re unlikely to burn out unless something very unusual happens and they get a huge number of calls–and that would probably be something where they’d have to call in reinforcements anyway. This schedule works for the current workers (barring the subject of the letter). Changing their schedules just because one guy is having issues isn’t the answer.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, I’ve walked out of yoga to answer a call, I’ve left restaurants, I’ve checked every 2-3 minutes during my boxing class … it doesn’t have to happen often to disrupt your life.

          2. Dog momma*

            I did some on call weekends maybe 4, & surprisingly never had to go on. Several others went in all the time.

      2. fidget spinner*

        Exactly, and I get the impression that this schedule is pretty “set.” Which means the other employees have already scheduled everything around their “on call” week for the foreseeable future. Vacations, celebrations, etc. Imo it would be unreasonable to mess that up now.

        1. Allonge*

          This – it sucks, but shaking the whole schedule up will have a huge impact on everyone else.

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      I was part of an on-call rotation for most of my career and can safely say that this really would not work. Maybe, if the guy agreed to being the weekend-only on call person, but that would still complicate things.

      With stuff like this, presenting it as “This is a job requirement” before hiring (like the LW did) is the only thing to do. Even if you incentivize people accepting an additional on call rotation to help this guy out, you risk burning out the other employees.

      1. Ellen N.*

        Not only do you risk burning out the other employees, you risk them becoming resentful.

        They may agree to changing their on call schedule not because they are willing to, but because they don’t want to be seen as the selfish person who won’t help out a struggling single parent.

    3. linger*

      Per OP’s comment upthread, the ex is not allowing any kind of custody schedule compatible with any regular schedule of nights on-call. It sounds rather like sabotage.
      The 2-month planning hiatus OP has offered sounds like the best course for the moment, but quite possibly it will need to be planning time for the father to find a different job.

      1. zillah*

        how is it sabotage, though? i’d be furious if i broke up with someone but was still expected to bail him out when he signed up for something he couldn’t do.

        1. zillah*

          edit: i saw that he was able to do it when he was hired, but my broader point still holds.

        2. linger*

          It “sounds like sabotage” from OP’s perspective, in the sense that the ex is now, years after the fact, imposing a condition (=irregular, unpredictable custody) incompatible with what she knows is a requirement of the father’s employment.
          I hasten to add, though, that we do not know anything about the ex-wife’s situation, and should be cautious not to assume any actual maliciousness.
          As a maximally charitable assumption, imagine that she is facing a parallel problem, if her own job is some sort of gig-economy role inherently lacking a predictable schedule. In that case, their respective job requirements are incompatible. One or both needs to change jobs to maintain regular shared custody. But that is much easier said than done, and still may not improve their situation. This is a mess, but one that OP cannot solve for them.

  9. ZSD*

    How often do the people who are on call actually get called in at weird hours? Is it like, yes, you’re technically on call, but most weeks you won’t get called in outside of regular business hours? Or do you find that people who are on call usually have to come in at night at least once during the week?
    If the latter, I think there’s really a larger problem at play here, which is…your building needs some major repairs. If water leaks or broken AC are weekly problems, then the building owners need to start budgeting to replace the HVAC or plumbing. I realize that’s easier said than done, but having people come in at 3 AM to fix leaks on a weekly basis is unreasonable.

    And I mention this because the frequency of these calls determines how major of a problem the lack of childcare is. If most of the time he’s not going to get called in outside of working hours anyway, then this is a much more manageable problem.

      1. I Have RBF*

        If they are looking after multiple buildings with frequent after hours problems, then they just need to hire someone for the night shift, instead of doing on-call rotations.

    1. Colette*

      It’s not really more manageable – if there’s only one call per year but the employee has his child and can’t take her with him or leave her home alone, it’s still a problem. It’s less frequent, but you still either have a situation where he’s not doing his job or he’s endangering his child.

      Whether other steps could avoid some callouts might depend on budget/influence/size of the building. But it wouldn’t solve the problem for the OP or the employee.

      And the OP also mentions things like lock outs, which are not fixed by maintenance.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I don’t know. If this is a large hospital, university campus, etc., where things are often in flux, this doesn’t sound unreasonable. OP didn’t tell us whether this is just a 400-unit apartment complex or something a lot more complicated and quirky.

      1. East Coast Commenter*

        Honestly, I’d focus less on finding ways to accommodate him around a requirement you made clear was an essential condition at hiring, and give serious thought to whether you should keep employing this person. By bringing his child on these calls, he breached company policy and exposed your company to significant liability. I appreciate that he was between a rock and a hard place, but he should have brought this issue to the company rather than hiding what he was doing when he knew or should have known this violated policy.

        1. Sparkles McFadden*

          Yup. Some people just go ahead and say “Oh yes, I can do that, no problem” when what they really mean is “Maybe I won’t get called in so often and this will all work out.” I feel bad for the guy, and the LW is handling it well, but this really is the employee’s problem to solve.

          1. Managing While Female*

            I think this is what happened. He rolled the dice because he was trying to make the best out of a bad situation and crossed his fingers that he wouldn’t get a call on a night he had the kid. I feel for him, his kid, and his manager. The situation just sucks.

          2. GammaGirl1908*

            I took it to mean that when he accepted the job, he and his ex were still together, or he otherwise had more at-home support. That is, the schedule was feasible back when he took the job, but something has shifted for him so it no longer is, and so taking the kid to work came out of some desperation.

            I … think this is no longer the job for him. His home situation is now incompatible with the schedule. To LW’s original question, there is amicable grey area that is not firing or laying off or quitting that still means someone has to leave a job. They can give him the longest runway they can and the softest landing they can, but it’s unfair to keep him in the job when he can’t meet the scheduling requirements.

    3. Maggie*

      They probably are in charge of several buildings and lots of calls are likely due to tenant misuse/tenant confusion so they can’t be prevented with repairs. He agreed to something at hire that he isn’t able to do and has actually been putting the company in a seriously compromised position by bringing his kid.

    4. I need all the luck!*

      it could be a company that provides building maintenance service to clients

    5. LW for this one*

      There are weeks when he has no emergency calls, and weeks when he might get called out five times or more. It really just depends.

    6. Observer*

      Is it like, yes, you’re technically on call, but most weeks you won’t get called in outside of regular business hours?

      It doesn’t really matter. It happens often enough that the LW apparently knows of multiple instances where the father took the kid with him to a job site.

      If water leaks or broken AC are weekly problems, then the building owners need to start budgeting to replace the HVAC or plumbing.

      Even if that were correct, it doesn’t matter. Telling a building owner “You need to spend big bucks so my staff don’t have to worry about childcare” doesn’t exactly fly.

      If most of the time he’s not going to get called in outside of working hours anyway, then this is a much more manageable problem.

      No. Because he cannot EVER take the kid on site. Which means that he needs a solution that works 100% of the time.

  10. Cafe au Lait*

    Considering his first thought wasn’t “Let me talk to my ex about covering when I need to be on call” tells me the employee and his ex-wife do not have a good relationship.

    If you’re determined to keep him on, scheduling on-call when it’s his off-custody weeks is best.

    1. Princess Pumpkin Spice*

      Sometimes, it isn’t as simple as having a good relationship or not.

      Parenting time schedules are often court ordered (or agreed to by both parties and sometimes filed in court). If dad keeps sacrificing his parenting time, mom is within her rights to go to court, demonstrate he isn’t using his allotted time, and ask for a modification. This would also impact how much child support dad pays. He may not have a full week of custody – it could just be a night or two and EOW.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I still feel that he chose… poorly. He risked his kid and his job the way he did things. It’s possible that his ex refused to alter the custody time, and he didn’t think he had a choice, but it’s just as possible that she might be a reasonable person. I think it’s completely fair that she doesn’t want their young child in a risky place or alone.

      2. deinonychus*

        Agree. Who knows how much mom has already rearranged, sacrificed, changed her schedule/job/commitments/etc to make sure she was available during her custody time? It’s not on her to further rearrange her life so that dad can make this job work, which he knew would have on-call hours when he took it. Dad needs to find a job that fits his custody time, or like you said, they need to both agree to change the custody schedules, but it shouldn’t mean mom automatically has to further change her life to accommodate him. Plus, changing the custody schedules, even if both parties are amicable and willing, still take hours in court, time paying their lawyers, possibly months waiting for a court date and amendments to be filed- it might still take longer than the two months.

    2. Siege*

      I mean, I agree that the steps she took seem like they don’t have a good relationship but it’s also possible she lives 20 miles away in the wrong direction if they did have a good relationship. On call means “within a set amount of time”. When my partner worked on call we couldn’t go more than ten miles from home even though the requirement was an hour because there’s no guarantee that traffic won’t be a snarled mess.

  11. Princess Pumpkin Spice*

    I work at a larger company, but we are a 24/7 service company and have techs on call every night, day, holiday, weekend. Even with 4 people, doing a 7-day rotation is madness. Wouldn’t it be better to do assigned nights, then rotate weekends? For example, Larry works every Monday night, Barry works Tuesdays, Gary works Wednesdays, and Harry works Thursdays. Then Larry works Weekend 1, Barry Weekend 2, Gary Weekend 3, and Harry Weekend 4. If peoples schedules allowed for it, you could even mix up the days of the week so the same people aren’t doing 4-day straight on-calls. This way, you’d get the coverage needed, your staff would work the same number of hours, and people with court ordered custody schedules wouldn’t need to sacrifice parenting time. I think it’s worth trying before you fire a good employee for being a parent.

    1. Colette*

      Of course, no one could ever go on vacation, and Larry would be working more holidays, and if Gary quits, you can only hire someone who is willing to work every Wednesday, and …

      I’ve worked a one-week schedule, and it generally is a good way to do it as long as you aren’t on call more than one week a month on average. I wouldn’t prioritize changing it for one person unless everyone else is enthusiastically on board.

      1. Double A*

        I would assume on-call coverage would work the same as regular coverage when people are out?

        1. Colette*

          Sure, but now you’re making it difficult for people to schedule. “I work every Tuesday and every 4th weekend, except Gary’s off next week so I also work Wednesday and Harry is off the week after that so I work that Thursday .”

    2. Maggie*

      That sounds super confusing to plan for and awful for the employees who could never make a plan to do anything because their on call day constantly rotated. And like a good way to make sure people mess up their days if they’re ever changing like that

    3. Dave*

      In a similar work setup we used to due full weeks, but the techs actually preferred a rotating schedule so they basically work every 4th or 5th day depending on how many techs are working. This way no one is giving up an entire weekend. (In the case of a custody issue the tech might prefer a whole weekend if they didn’t have their kid.) It is always most helpful if you can do the schedule months out and people can trade weekends in advance for stuff like weddings or whatever else people have going on. The not full weekend also helps when the weather breaks because you end up killing yourself for a day and not three days.
      I think the take two months off can work if you have a conversation with the other folks so they don’t have hurt feelings about the burden but honestly they will feel it either on call or on call and during the work day if you fire him now.

    4. Hlao-roo*

      Wouldn’t it be better to do assigned nights, then rotate weekends?

      Not always, and possibly not even in most cases. Other people with on-call jobs have weighed in elsewhere in the comments section to say that this kind of broken-up on call schedule makes it difficult to plan for time off/vacations. Now Barry needs to coordinate with his family and ask Larry, Garry, and Harry if any of them are willing to pick up his Tuesday on-call night for the week he wants to take vacation. If Barry is on-call one week out of every four, he just coordinates with his family that the vacation must fall during a not on-call week.

    5. LW for this one*

      This is how our company handles on-calls as a standard. We discussed seeing if we could make other options work just for our team because of this situation, but the rest of the team wants to keep one week on, three weeks off.

      1. Hyaline*

        I think this is really important to consider. Frankly, on call all week sounds awful to me, and I’d prefer “Mondays and rotate weekends” or whatever, but if your current team prefers it I don’t think it’s fair or good for morale to disregard them in this situation and change policy and schedule for one fairly new hire.

        Not all jobs work for single parents. It’s not fair, but it is the reality.

        1. EmmaPoet*

          Good point. If the rest of the team is in favor of this arrangement, then upsetting it for one person is going to annoy everyone else.

        2. KateM*

          Not all jobs work for all people in general. I’m sure that there are plenty of jobs out there for each one of us that don’t have schedules that worked for us.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        Hey, LW, I do think you’ve done everything you can for him and this job is not compatible with his custody arrangement.

        It could be compatible with an alternating every other week custody arrangement, but since he and his ex-wife don’t want/can’t agree to that, I think what you offered him is generous ie 2 months o find a new job or a solution. But honestly it’s likely a new job.

  12. M*

    Regardless of what this guy can or can’t arrange, if I was one of the other team members of this group no amount of incentives would keep me from being super annoyed if this goes beyond the 2 month grace period. There’s a big difference between one week a month and possibly half the month to cover someone else. You’ll want to be careful not to poison the well with the rest of your team just to take care of this guy.

    1. fidget spinner*

      Yeah there are a lot of comments that are like “well the others will have to be more flexible, but….”

      And I just don’t think it’s reasonable to ask the others to be more flexible considering you have to work your entire life around being on-call. They’ve probably already worked around their current schedule when scheduling vacations and such. Or, like, maybe their anniversary falls when they’re on-call, so they have reservations for the week after… but now they’re being asked to be “more flexible” and their on-call times are changing.

      It’s a recipe for resentment!

      1. Bunny Girl*

        Plus I’m assuming they all took the job with the same knowledge that this employee did and plan around their week on call. I can say honestly there’s no incentive that could convince me to take more on call time for another employee. That might sound harsh but I don’t think it’s fair to ask other employees to balance their schedules/lives/free time for another employee who was told up front what the job would entail.

        1. fidget spinner*

          I’d do it for enough money if it were a week where I was already free or whatever… but with only 3 other employees, it’s going to be really hard to find people who want to be on call for two entire weeks out of the month! Especially since they’re all already working around their own on-call schedule…. There’s such a good chance that all three of them would have something planned during this guy’s on-call week….

      2. EmmaPoet*

        Agreed. They have their own schedules, and now they have to trade off doing an extra week for him? This will not end well. And what happens if they can’t? They have their own lives outside work, which may well include things like custody arrangements, which they can’t just shrug off for two months.

    2. Part time lab tech*

      2 months is actually too long. There are 3 guys and I think missing only 1 of his rotations is reasonable. It would still be 2 months by the time he left because you’d give him 2 weeks notice at the 6 week mark.
      Personally, if he’s not able to come up with arrangements within a month, I don’t think extra time is going to make much difference other than for job searching.
      I wonder if he would be able to trade extra time during holidays for the ex taking extra nights during his on call. Maybe she has work too though.

  13. Maggie*

    Depending on how hard it is to hire someone, I might not try that hard to keep him on. The two months thing is reasonable I think, but a shorter time period is ok too. He agreed to something knowing he wasn’t capable of doing it, then broke several rules, and then brought his kid to a dangerous workspace putting the company in a difficult position if the child were to be hurt. And it took the ex wife finding out and taking legal action. If you think this position is easily re-hireable I would do that. Clearly he does not have good judgement and is comfortable agreeing to things he won’t do.

    1. UnicornWrangler*

      There’s no evidence that he was in the divorce process or a single parent when he was hired, though. Yes, he should have alerted someone if/when things changed, but he also probably had a lot on his plate. I think you’re automatically assigning a lot of maliciousness on his part based on very little evidence.

      1. Kate*


        For all we know, he used to have a reliable neighbour that could cover and then they moved away. There are a thousand different explanations before “ pearly he does not have good judgement and is comfortable agreeing to things he won’t do”.

        1. hypoglycemic rage*


          or maybe his family lives far away now, but they didn’t always, or something like that where the circumstances changed and management wouldn’t necessarily know.

        2. GammaGirl1908*

          Agreed. I assumed the schedule was fine at first, but something changed for him. Either a) the split has happened since he took the job, or b) some other child care option he had is no longer available, and he underestimated how hard it would be to make it work.

          He may still need to leave the job, and he’s made some poor choices out of desperation, but I didn’t assume that he started out being dishonest / malicious.

      2. Maggie*

        Yes, OP actually clarified that below. I misunderstood that in the beginning so then I think 2 months is a reasonable amount of time for him to get sorted out.

    2. Beth*

      He might have been capable of doing it when he signed on. It sounds like this is an ongoing custody battle in an active court process. It is alarming that he thought he could get away with bringing the kid in, and that the employer learned about the whole situation (and the new court order about it) from his ex, and it’s super reasonable to question his judgment. But I don’t think there’s a reason to assume he lied about his availability in the first place.

    3. e271828*

      It’s not fair to the other employees to let one person’s childcare problem control everyone else’s schedule.

      And what do you do when someone else needs flexibility?

    4. Chickena*


      I’m a parent; I’m very sympathetic to emergency childcare needs. I would be horrified if someone was fired because of a one time or non foreseeable childcare issue. But – this isn’t a one time issue. This is an ongoing problem that the employee decided not to deal with until the ex wife forced his hand.

  14. Bookworm*

    Another possible solution for LW’s worker would to hire an “on call” nanny. I know that wouldn’t work for everyone, but just wanted to put it out there!

  15. H.Regalis*

    Ugh, that just sucks. The world is not set up for working parents. Everything is still predicated on the idea everyone is in a two-parent household where one person works a job outside the home and one person is the homemaker.

    I really, really hope you all are able to work something out where your employee can be on call on the weeks he doesn’t have his kid. My best friend lives far away from me (or else I’d help out) and has had to bring her son to work sometime. Fortunately her job was cool with it, but it was either that or leave the kid with people she knew weren’t safe and just hope that nothing bad happened to him.

      1. I Have RBF*

        If the 3 am emergencies are constant, multiple times a week, then you hire a person to handle nights as their main shift.

      2. Iris Eyes*

        If overnight emergencies are a thing fairly regularly have dedicated overnight people/person. I’ve witnessed how exhausting it can be for someone to work on call shifts in addition to a full time job with almost no consideration for how much overnight support they may have had to give. If its say usually once a week but not more than that then maybe using a service where overnight facilities management would be shared among an even wider group of properties. Having dedicated hours and nothing expected outside of those hours is hugely beneficial to everyone, family’s can better plan for childcare (overnight shifts have been essential for a lot of young families who need full time childcare but can’t afford any)

      3. H.Regalis*

        That’s why I said I hope they can work something out where he’s on call on the weeks he doesn’t have his kid. I think that’s the only option that would work here and allow him to keep his job.

      4. doreen*

        You can have a dedicated over night shift if there are enough calls nearly every week. But no employer is going to add enough employees to cover 16 extra shifts a week ( two shifts every days and then two more for Sat and Sun during the day) if it’s an average of one or two calls a week. Especially if for whatever reason , regular work cannot be done during those shifts.

        But even if this person only actually gets called out once a year, he still needs a solution. The same solution he would need if he was getting called out every week. The only difference frequency might possibly make is if the solution is someone nearby who is willing to be available on no notice once in a while but I think if that was an option, he would have thought of it.

    1. zillah*

      i think that this is true in general, but i also think that there are functionally just some jobs that some people can’t do. most dog owners i know would never take a job that requires frequent travel, even if it’s just overnights, because dogs aren’t just a “stop in to feed them” thing.

      this isn’t an arbitrary “you must always be here at 9 exactly because i say so” – there are emergencies happening overnight that must be dealt with immediately, and there’s not nearly enough work to justify a dedicated person to work a night shift (which has its own problems). that’s just not feasible for most solo caretakers.

      i’d also argue that characterizing this particular situation as being predicated on antiquated ideas about family setup is also actually doing the same thing in assuming that having children is the default at all.

  16. BigLawEx*

    I hope, LW in those two months you’re looking for someone to replace him. Also, I do question the worker’s judgment. On call is commonly understood. I mean if he were in IT, and could log in from home, that’s one thing. But any job that requires you to leave the house to serve the needs of the business/workplace – is incompatible with childcare.

    (I’m thinking of a friend who did on call jail healthcare as an MD because that’s the least appropriate child friendly situation that comes to mind).

    His ex made the right move. I think you need to as well.

    1. deinonychus*

      Yes, ex-wife definitely made the right move. Someone who takes their three year old to a hazardous/not childproofed job site, in the middle of the night, multiple times, it not someone you want to waste time with gentle reminders and constant worry about whether your child is safe. She did the right thing getting that in writing and enforced by the law.

  17. Goody*

    This overall arrangement with only 4 people on the team does sound like a huge burden for everyone on the team, and I absolutely agree that shifting Dad’s on-call requirement to the other three people is inappropriate. However, I wonder if it might be better to hire a designated overnight crew and remove on-call as a requirement of the position.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Presumably not enough work to justify the expense of a full-time overnight crew.
      Changing their entire business model and adding major costs doesn’t sound a feasible option for the OP to propose.

    2. LW for this one*

      The way we do on-call shifts is standard in the industry and they do get a bonus each week when they are on call, as well as paid a minimum of 1.5 hours even if they’re only here for 15 minutes. It’s not great, but they get paid for all of their time. We do not have the budget to hire an entirely new crew, and it doesn’t make sense. We’d have to train new people on the property layout, company standards and protocols, and we don’t even know if they’d need to come in. Some weeks have no emergency calls, and we rarely have much more than five or six.

      1. kalli*

        Can you just have one person trained as a floater and then if someone leaves, they get the regular slot and you train another floater? Meanwhile the floater covers all leave and hangs around doing trainings if they haven’t done some minimum amount of hours?

        1. LW for this one*

          There are tons of jobs in this field. No one would take a job where they just work randomly when there are plenty of stable, full-time jobs. We also don’t have the budget to hire someone to just hang out.

          1. Not A Manager*

            If there are a ton of jobs in this field, I honestly am not sure why you’re working so hard to preserve this job for him.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              “Tons of jobs” might also mean “difficult to find and hire qualified, reliable staff”.

          2. allathian*

            Fire the coworker (with severance) and hire someone else. If there are plenty of jobs in this field, it’s likely that your employee can fairly easily find another job in the same field with a bigger crew where he’d be on call less often, or perhaps he could opt out of the on-call schedule on a bigger crew. Even if covering one week at a time is a standard at your company, I can’t believe that it would be an inflexible standard at all of your competitors.

            Sure, it sucks to fire someone, but this job is clearly not suitable for him.

            Also, when you hire a replacement, make sure that whoever you hire knows that being on call for one week a month is a non-negotiable condition of the job and that during the weeks of they’re on call, any children must be the responsibility of someone other than the employee, and that you will fire people for not complying with these requirements. You’ll also have the current guy to refer to as an example of what isn’t acceptable.

          3. GythaOgden*

            Not to mention the impact of ‘just hanging out’ on that person’s wellbeing — JHO means you’re not getting experience that can get you anything more meaningful.

            Source — did it for almost 4 years, had to come in every day, couldn’t do anything meaningful, had no actual work to do, was too exhausted to do much when I got home and struggled to get anything else due to lack of fresh experience. Got out thanks to someone spotting my abilities to learn things quickly and will be ever indebted to that person for throwing me a lifeline.

            It’s not as fun as it might look.

    3. Stipes*

      In jobs like this, you often have on-call workloads that are like, “you might get called in after hours 0-5 times over the course of your whole week.” Many nights you don’t actually do anything, but you have to spend the week ready.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, this. One of my husband’s friends has a job like this. On the weekends when he’s on call, he can live pretty much as normal with a few exceptions in that he has to be fit to drive and to handle heavy machinery at all times, which obviously means no alcohol when he’s on call. He also has to always be able to answer the phone when it rings, so he wears hands-free sports earbuds at all times except in bed, including in the shower. He’s taken job calls sitting on the toilet, for example. But his customers expect that and apparently aren’t fazed. He gets paid a base salary for simply being on call and a bonus if he actually has to go to work.

  18. Aggretsuko*

    I’m wondering if this guy got divorced after he started the job, because otherwise it sounds like an incredibly bad idea for him to have gotten this job as a single dad. His ex-wife sounds pretty cheesed about this as well.

    Unless his on-call week can align with the ex-wife having custody (and why wasn’t this already happening?), I really don’t see what else there is to “work out.” There’s no on-call 3 a.m. babysitters in the world and unless he can find a roommate willing to do 3 a.m. child care since his family isn’t available, any 2 month period is probably just being nice to let him job hunt.
    The closest equivalent I can think of is that I have a disabled friend who’s not supposed to be left alone much and they have arranged for caregivers to spend the night several nights a week, but that takes a lot of work to get through IHSS and it doesn’t sound like disability is a factor here.

  19. M2*

    Could he be on call when his child is with his ex-wife? Maybe his weeks don’t match up and he doesn’t feel like he can say anything. I don’t know if that is appropriate to ask him, but that is what I would do? If it doesn’t end up being a week, could you maybe switch it and have him do the days the child is with the ex?

    Say he only has custody on certain days maybe every Wednesday and every other weekend, could you speak to the employees and have someone cover his Wednesday and then this employee cover another day they need? Maybe if this employee offers to cover some Holidays (where he isn’t with the child) people would offer to cover for the days that don’t work. I also think a kind of bonus incentive or extra PTO says is a great idea.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      The on-call is already allowed for in the agreed pay for the job, presumably higher than if they were working a regular 9-5 Mon-Fri.
      With 4 employees, one week per month on-call avoids anyone being burnt out and maybe doing subpar work.

      The company won’t add extra costs to their budget unless absolutely necessary – which it wouldn’t be if this employee is replaced by someone who works the agreed schedule.

    2. Dog momma*

      he’s already being paid for being on call. and if this was long term I WOULD NOT BE A HAPPY CAMPER.

  20. CityMouse*

    The fact that his ex wife had to file an emergency custody order here is really troubling. This potentially put the kid in danger and is completely unacceptable. Having a grace period and then letting him go for this really is okay, given bringing a small child to a worksite in the middle of the night would be a termination offense for many jobs. My father was a specific sub specialty and was often called into the ER in specific emergency situations. That’s just how certain jobs go.

    1. Shutterdoula*

      Eh, we don’t know that she HAD to. Just that she did. And frankly, people in custody disputes do all kinds of things to make the other parent look bad all the time. The fact that she called up her ex’s employer to tattle doesn’t exactly make her look like an angel.

      1. deinonychus*

        She was worried about her child’s safety. Dad had already taken the three year old to job sites with him in the middle of the night, several times. I would have done the same thing- get it in writing, get it so it’s backed by the law. And telling her husband’s employer- well he wasn’t going to, so who was?

  21. Former On Call Person*

    Either this guy was already divorced when you hired him, in which case he knew about the on call thing ahead of time and should have thought about whether he could make that work or his custody agreement was made when he already had an on call schedule that he knew about in advance. This guy was just not taking the on call part of this job seriously when making his life choices, I feel, and it’s on him to rectify that.

    1. LW for this one*

      He’s been here for a couple of years and the divorc/custody thing has only happened within the past 6 months or so. His circumstances have drastically changed.

      1. Lalala*

        Presumably his work schedule has NOT changed in that time, though. So he and his ex would both have been aware of on-call requirements at the time they negotiated custody schedules.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. Granted, I understand why the ex wanted to ensure that the employee no longer took the kid to work, but she also seems to be very unwilling to accommodate his work needs and to take the kid for a whole week when he’s on call.

          1. deinonychus*

            We don’t know how much she’s rearranged her life for this custody schedule either. She may have needed to change her own hours at work, rearrange shifts/scheduling, switch jobs, arrange babysitting/daycare… it’s not really her fault for not being willing to further change that, when dad isn’t really doing anything on his part.

          2. zillah*

            i feel like when you get divorced, part of the deal is not having to think about how to accommodate the other person’s work needs anymore.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              I mean, to an extent. It also means putting the children before squabbles. Having Dad lose his job would be bad for the kid.

              Knowing nothing at all about her situation–her own work schedule, how much she’s had to bend over backward to help him out in the past, etc.–I can’t say if she’s being unreasonable, here. But if she’s being stubborn just to be stubborn, that will make things worse for their child.

  22. arcya*

    I wonder if this is a reference to or the same situation as a big reddit legal advice thread some weeks ago. In that thread, the mother had found out her ex-husband was taking their five year old to work sites during the day and the middle of the night and leaving her in the truck for hours. The mother had asked him to stop, and pointed out that she, her parents, and his sister had all volunteered to take the child last minute when he needed to work. He refused, on the grounds that she might petition for more custody if it was found he wasn’t “using” all his custody time (they were 50-50). For what it’s worth, she said in the thread that she wouldn’t file for more custody. She eventually ended up with a court order preventing him from leaving their daughter in his truck, but he kept doing it. He kept posting photos of the child in his work truck on social media, saying she was his “work buddy” today etc. The mother was forced to contact the work site managers to inform them about an unsupervised minor being left in their work trucks, and the ex-husband was forced to stop doing it. The legal advice thread was about him threatening to sue the mother for his lost wages, since he now “couldn’t work.”

    This of course paints all parties in a different light, and is likely a very different situation! I really hope the LW is able to find a way to schedule this employee’s “on call hours” around his custody schedule.

    1. Nonsense*

      I mean, it’s probably a different situation, but then that means there’s two situations, which kinda sucks.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Yup. If I had to file a court order to prevent my ex from taking a child out of bed in the middle of the night and taking them to a worksite, potentially multiple times, I absolutely would.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I don’t have kids, and yet I’m feeling very protective of this kid I don’t even know. I can’t imagine how the kid’s mom feels about this.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Exactly. I work in the field and am horrified at the idea of a small child loose in the building. Even I, as autistic and easily occupied to the point of obliviousness, could get occupied by something I shouldn’t be occupied by. The story is further down the thread but is a benign example of what can happen when a kid is left to occupy themselves and chooses the wrong thing to be occupied by. It wasn’t dangerous, but it left my parents a bit embarrassed.

    3. Jess*

      I had the exact same deja-vu moment when I read this letter – if it *is* the other side of that reddit thread, it’s very interesting!

  23. Glomarization, Esq.*

    TBH I’m not sure how bringing his child on a call wasn’t a fireable offense the first time he did it.

    1. LW for this one*

      It technically was, but the guy was in a bind. We weren’t going to do that to him (despite the fact that it opened us to liability).

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        I suggest you inform all employees that if their circumstances change and they have problems re being on-call then they MUST discuss solutions with you.

        Warn everyone that from now on bringing a child on call will bring immediate firing – in case someone else has childcare problems and decides to copy this guy, thinking he got away with it for some time.

        1. tangerineRose*

          This! You’re opening yourself up to liability, and if anything did happen to the kid, well, that’s a nightmare you don’t want to live with.

      2. Managing While Female*

        I’d be careful, honestly, because if he does it again, now that you know he’s done it in the past, you may get into a really sticky situation since you can’t say you didn’t know about it anymore. The whole situation is a mess, unfortunately. I’m sorry you have to deal with it (and sorry for your employee too).

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Yep, this is the stuff plaintiff attorneys dream of.

          And I can’t imagine that this isn’t going to end up in the divorce proceedings, either. “Ex brought kiddo to a worksite in the middle of the night multiple times” is not going to win them points with the family court judge or the ex wife’s lawyer.

      3. Observer*

        It technically was, but the guy was in a bind. We weren’t going to do that to him (despite the fact that it opened us to liability).

        Give him his two months. But also, if he says he has the issue worked out, you need to do two things.

        1. He needs to give you evidence that he has a *workable* plan in place.

        2. Watch him. Do whatever is possible to monitor if he brings the kid in. If there is a next time, he’s out the door.

        Yes, he’s in a bind, but his solution was waaay out of bounds – especially since it’s apparently something that he’s done more than once.

        1. Java*

          Yea, honestly ‘in a bind’ is more of a “my childcare fell through, no one is picking up their phone and I’ve run out of options for tonight so I’m going to break the rules this once, I’m so sorry [child] I’ll make it up to you” situation.
          It’s not a “I’m going to do this in secret for 6 months and I’ll figure it out eventually” situation.

          I’m sure he’s going through a rough time and is overwhelmed with the situation he’s in, I can absolutely empathize with that, but it’s taking him too long to prioritize his kid here.

      4. CommanderBanana*

        I really admire your empathy, but I’m coming down more on the side of this person not being the right person for this job unless they can sort out the childcare issues.

        This person brought their kid to their worksite multiple times. It’s very fortunate that you didn’t find out about this by being slapped with a lawsuit after the kid got injured on your worksite.

        1. Observer*


          OP, I really admire that you want to help this guy. But things could have gone really badly. And at this point if anything happens to this kid – or he messes up anything with he kid on site, it WILL go badly for you. It’s just not tenable.

      5. KTB2*

        I think this part is really where I firmly come down on the side of two months to sort himself out and then part ways if nothing changes.

        You’ve been very empathetic up to this point, and I’m really giving a ton of side eye to the commenters who are insisting that you need to reconfigure your entire on-call schedule to accommodate this guy. It’s clearly been working up until now, it’s not a surprise, and his decision to fly by the seat of his pants is not actually your problem to solve. He should have been more proactive when he realized on-call was going to overlap with childcare, because hoping for the best is clearly not a workable strategy.

      6. Rainy*

        I mean, I get giving him a pass once because you feel bad and his circumstances have changed more rapidly than his ability to adjust, but this is a situation where the liability it’s opening you up to is liability for the injury or death of a small child. Now you know that he’s done it repeatedly, not just once.

        He can find other jobs, and if he keeps bringing his kid to overnight emergency calls, he needs to do just that.

    2. Ally McBeal*

      Because OP’s employer didn’t know about it until after the wife had taken the issue all the way through the legal system? If the customer didn’t complain, there’s no way for the employer to have known it happened.

      1. Managing While Female*

        He means, why wasn’t he fired after the employer knew about it?

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*


          Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. Once the employer discovered the violation — a safety problem that could result in an uninsured payout in the seven-figure range if the worst were to happen — the employer would likely have been well within their rights to can him immediately, and arguably should have done so.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            Well within their rights yes, but clearly OP didn’t want to go that route. I like how they’re approaching it – give him a bit to see if he can find an arrangement, but ultimately they might have to part ways

      1. GythaOgden*

        Anyone qualified for it would know they’d be expected to do on-call, though. It’s pretty standard for maintenance jobs. (Source — in facilities and estates management for healthcare.)

    3. IrishElizabeth*

      I was looking to see if someone else thought about this. It shows a really horrible lack of judgement. His own child could have been in danger! And if the child couldn’t stay home alone it means they’re pretty young and don’t necessarily have the self-preservation (or listening) skills of an older kid. If the employee couldn’t go alone, he should have called his manager and explained the situation. He knew what he was doing wasn’t okay (and if he didn’t, that once again just shows horrible judgement).]
      I am glad the ex found out and acted upon it.

    4. Choggy*

      Yes, I was waiting for someone to bring this up. It “came to light” this guy bringing his child on calls. Is it clearly stated in the hiring documents that no unauthorized person can be brought on calls (this would cover myriad of situations). That this employee is potentially putting his child at risk is a red flag. I realize it’s an impossible situation, but they should have spoken to their manager before taking it upon himself to put his livelihood, and potentially his custody, in jeopardy.

  24. Justin*

    I was expecting this to be more about our daycare system but no, that’s not gonna work at 3 am.

  25. HannahS*

    Honestly, I think you’re being more than reasonable. This man needed a COURT ORDER to tell him that he can’t bring a young child to a maintenance site in the middle of the night or leave them alone at home. Consider what would happen if the child was injured.

    I am a parent and work call shifts, and can be “activated” with little notice. I am sympathetic to the position he’s in–as a society, we operate as if there’s a stay-at-home mom in every home. But you cannot endanger your child. Ask him what would be helpful–some ideas could be having several weeks’ notice of the schedule, or letting him have priority in choosing when he’s on-call.

  26. Yup*

    The western workforce and family structure is not built for children and parents. No matter the situation here or who knew what when they were hired, on-call work for single parents is just a catastrophe waiting to happen. I love when people say “hire a babysitter!” like your teen neighbour who babysits on weekends can come in on a Tuesday at 3 a.m like it’s NBD.

    1. Justin*

      ….there are single parents everywhere. This is really not about our very real societal issues (unless the implication is all homes should be multigenerational).

      1. Yup*

        There is no daycare available for shift work or evening/night work, which often falls to poor or single parents. It is a societal problem. And single parents everywhere struggle.

        1. Colette*

          There are overnight daycares in some places, although they wouldn’t be a great solution to this problem. But some things the employee could do are:
          – have a friend/family member stay overnight when he is on call and his child is there
          – identify a trusted neighbour who would be willing to come over on little notice
          – have the child sleep over at someone’s house when he is on call (the other parent, grandparent, trusted friend, etc.)
          – find a job that doesn’t have an on-call requirement

        2. Justin*

          You are eliding a whole lot of things. Poor and single are vastly different categories of parent that sometimes overlap, and shift and evening/night are also very different, though sometimes overlap. I am not sure of a place where (if he happens to be poor) poor, single, shift, overnight workers aren’t having a rough go, unfortunately. It’s not about the west.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Yup. It’s probably actually that the west has thought about it and has better, though not perfect, infrastructure to cope with it and an ongoing discussion about safety and safeguarding vs the needs of working parents. The developing world just gets on with it as best they can and devil take the hindmost.

    2. Colette*

      I haven’t seen anyone say that, but you could, for example, hire someone to stay overnight at your house every time you’re on call, if that were your only choice. If you get called in, they’re there; if you don’t, they’re still there.

      I don’t take jobs that say they have on-call shifts; I’ve done that, and I don’t want to do it again. But if I did, I’d have to take the on-call shifts; that’s what I signed up for. And so did this employee – it might not be trivial to make it work, but it’s his responsbility to figure it out.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        In practice, how is “hire someone to stay overnight at your house every time you’re on call” different than “hire a babysitter?”

        1. Colette*

          Yes, that is hiring a babysitter, but you’re doing it proactively , not when you get a call at 3 am. It’s expensive – you’ll pay for times you don’t get called + but not as expensive as being unemployed.

          1. LW for this one*

            A good babysitter that’s working 40 hours a week is going to leave him with barely any money that week. It’s just not practical.

            1. Colette*

              But that’s for him to figure out, not you. Maybe he can’t do it, but it’s his job to care for his child, and if you get too involved , it’s going to get in the way of you doing your job.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      A likely way for a single parent to manage overnight shifts is to have a permanent arrangement with the ex or other family member that they always have the child those nights when the shifts are scheduled. So it’s a regular routine for the kid, independent of whether the calls are rare or frequent.

      It’s very unfair to a child to have their sleep disrupted and be bundled out of the house in the middle of the night, even to a safe workplace. They’ll be tired for school etc the next day.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        This is another reason why the permanent 1 week per month on-call works better for most people than irregular or complicated schedules

      2. tangerineRose*

        “A likely way for a single parent to manage overnight shifts is to have a permanent arrangement with the ex or other family member that they always have the child those nights when the shifts are scheduled. ” Yes. This!

    4. Roland*

      I don’t think a single person has suggested that “hire a babysitter!” is a solution in this situation.

      1. LW for this one*

        You’d have to hire a babysitter for every night of the on call shift, or find one that would be willing to come over at any hour of the night with no notice. The first one just isn’t cost-effective, and the second one just isn’t likely to be available.

        1. Colette*

          Well, when you’re evaluating what is cost effective, you have to compare it with the cost of not doing it. Overnight daycare/babysitter is expensive – is it more expensive than not having a job, because it’s required to keep his job?

          Having said that, most people I know in situations like that have a more informal/bartering relationship with other parents.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            It actually might be more expensive than his job, if he would be eligible for unemployment. Paying for an overnight babysitter when most of the time, it’s not needed? That’s not feasible.

        2. Delta Delta*

          Some people are night nannies and can do exactly this. Sometimes it’s just a question of having another adult human in the house so the parent can go out and do what they need to do. A woman in my area does this and essentially sleeps over at the person’s house a few nights a month for a fee (I think she charges $50/night or something). While this may end up being expensive, it’s a solution.

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Well yes, that has been suggested by Butterfly Counter, Frieda, Bookworm…

        1. Roland*

          All of those people have suggested arrangements in advance, not asking your teen neighbour who babysits on weekends if she can come in on a Tuesday at 3 a.m like it’s NBD.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            I mean, it wouldn’t have been out of order for one of my regulars to ask this (“can you spend the night here on X, Y, and Z just in case”) and negotiate a rate of pay if called out when I was in my teens and babysitting.

          2. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Yes, but people you pay to watch your child at your home are babysitters regardless of when you call them. We have a standing schedule with Claudia* to watch our child from 3:00 – 5:00 pm on alternating Tuesdays; we also have called Kristy at 4:00 for a last-minute need that day at 6:00. Both of those people are babysitters.

            *It took MONTHS to find Claudia.

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          I said it as one of a few options. The other option is that this guy is fired, so…?

          Honestly, it sounds like he just needs to nail out a better parenting plan with his ex. I know OP said it’s contentious, but it’s time to be an adult and make adult decisions that are best for the child. And bringing a child to a potentially dangerous worksite at 2:30 in the morning is not one of them.

          1. Antilles*

            Unfortunately, in the US divorce and custody process, “making adult decisions that are best” very often comes second to “how can I make my ex suffer”.

            1. GythaOgden*

              It’s a problem of human nature, unfortunately. It’s not just confined to the US.

          2. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Yes, the person I was replying to said no one had said to get a babysitter — that was not true. I’m not saying that a babysitter is a bad idea, just that it’s not easy. There is zero easy option in this scenario (including “just” being an adult and making adult decisions, since those require the other adult to agree with and honor those decisions).

    5. zillah*

      which may mean that jobs that require on call shifts (esp in the middle of the night) are not an option for most single parents. frequently, lack of flexibility is a choice rather than an inherent part of the job, but that’s not the case here, yk?

      i feel like this is similar to jobs requiring frequent travel in that both reqs can both be pretty tough to accommodate, but at a certain point, dealing with them is an unavoidable part of the job.

  27. East Coast Commenter*

    Honestly, I’d focus less on finding ways to accommodate him around a requirement you made clear was an essential condition at hiring, and give serious thought to whether you should keep employing this person. By bringing his child on these calls, he breached company policy and exposed your company to significant liability. I appreciate that he was between a rock and a hard place, but he should have brought this issue to the company rather than hiding what he was doing when he knew or should have known this violated policy.

    1. CityMouse*

      Yes. I can feel bad for this guy, but this is so, so beyond the lines of safety and legality that it really can’t be tolerated.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I admit I’m not familiar with divorce court, but wouldn’t the employee have had to agree to the custody arrangement? The one that left him sole caretaker during his regular overnight on-call shifts? I can’t imagine a judge saying “this is the new custody arrangement, we don’t care if it makes you lose your job.”

      1. BigLawEx*

        The only way that could have happened is if the divorce were uncontested. I’ve seen many folks come through saying the court imposed something on them, it’s unfair, they didn’t know…and they fail to mention that they answered no court documents and didn’t show up for any hearings. Even then there’s would be so much notice.

        I can’t fathom how he ‘didn’t see it coming.’ A head in the sand is no defense to any of this.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Yeah. This guy sounds like he’s full of poor judgment. If he or his lawyer had brought this up in court at the time, something could have been worked out. I get the impression that he just kind of . . . lets life happen to him. We don’t know what solutions he’s tried, if any.

          I suspect that his descriptions of the divorce (and the implacability of his ex) to OP are very one-sided.

      2. deinonychus*

        Exactly. Divorce court doesn’t just get decided by the judge- both sides’ lawyers spend time going back and forth, often taking months/years to come to a final agreement. Any changes would involve lawyers going back and forth again. There’s no way he didn’t see this coming and have time to prepare, either by having his lawyer bring up his on-call hours and working that into the agreement, or notifying his employer long before now.

  28. Kitty Cuddler*

    Obviously, OP can not get involved in his custody arrangement, but obviously the most obvious solution would be the ex keeps the kid the nights he’s on call or makes herself available when he gets the call. My ex and I had “the right of first refusal” where if the other parent couldn’t watch the kids during their regular time, we got the option to have them extra time before grandma, babysitters, ect. But not all couples can co parent smoothly, so it may not work for this situation. I agree that giving him 2 months to figure his situation out will give him the opportunity to explore his custody options.

    1. BigLawEx*

      I have a first refusal agreement as well. BUT 3 am? No doubt she has a job, life, etc., that may not adapt to last minute call outs. Then three people have to suffer and only one of them is getting paid.

      I hear everyone on the other parent being flexible, but we’re back at a woman having to accommodate someone who needs to either change jobs or figure it out.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I think the suggestion solution is to give the mother custody for the entire *week* the father is on-call, not to drop the kiddo off at 3AM.

        1. tangerineRose*

          “give the mother custody for the entire *week* the father is on-call, not to drop the kiddo off at 3AM.” Yes. That would make sense.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Many parents in antagonistic divorces want *more* custody of their kids, so it’s reasonable to think the mother would want an additional week(ish) of custody of the child. Particularly if this arrangement a) kept the child out of an unsafe situation, b) increased the amount of child support she was owed, c) allowed the father to keep their job, which is probably necessary for him to pay child support.

        Not sure why the mother is being so inflexible in this situation; maybe she’s hoping to prove he’s unfit and gain full custody?

        Then again, I’m not sure why he agreed to this custody sharing agreement in the first place, knowing it would conflict with his job duties. Presumably a judge wouldn’t have signed off on this arrangement if they knew the father was planning to take the child on overnight calls.

        1. judyjudyjudy*

          “…maybe she’s hoping to prove he’s unfit and gain full custody?”

          There are lots of potential reasons the mother could not budge on the schedule that doesn’t assume she is trying to make trouble for him. Ultimately, they are co-parents, and it is his responsibility to figure this situation out. It may mean finding a different job, hiring an overnight sitter for his on-call weeks, moving in with family members, renegotiating custody, or getting a roommate that is willing to be on-call as a babysitter. Some of those options might be feasible, some may not.

  29. spiriferida*

    I’ll admit to being curious about the ‘his family isn’t always available’ part of this. It sounds like sometimes they’re able to take his child for late-night calls. It could be that with some planning he would be able to arrange with his family for on-call weeks to be automatically covered, if things with his ex aren’t working for this – but whether he is or not, I agree that it’s not fair for him to be the only one who doesn’t take a shift, particularly with how that will impact the other employees. Give him warning, make it clear, but if he can’t find a solution, he needs to find something else.

  30. Bish*

    FWIW, overnight daycares do exist. I knew a single dad who utilized them because he worked night shift. Now, whether it makes financial sense to have his kid in overnight day for a whole week each month is a different question.

    1. Sparkle*

      I’m a nurse and I looked into this when I was on nights. My town of 300,000 people doesn’t have a single all-night daycare. They exist, but they’re not common.

    2. Lana Kane*

      These are not commonplace. And there’s a good chance if there are any, you might not want to have your child there (just like any other daycare, some are good and some are not. If there aren’t many to begin with, quality might be a deciding factor in not using it.)

    3. AnneCordelia*

      They do exist, but I don’t think you can just suddenly drop off the kid at 2am. So it would have to be that he pre-emptively dropped off the kid (and paid), every day of every week that he was on call, just in case. He’d be paying for an awful lot of unncessary daycare. Same thing with hiring a babysitter just in case –anyone who wasn’t Grandma wouldn’t want to be called and come over in the middle of the night. The unpredictability makes this a different situation than just working a standard night shift.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Yes, this. I know of one overnight daycare in our large metro area – ONE. And it’s not drop-in; it’s for kids whose parents regularly work night shifts and the kids sleep there every night.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        Every day of the week that he has the child. It sounds like he may have the child about half of each week maybe some Monday, Wednesday, Thursday arrangement so he’d only need child care for those nights. But he’d have to pay to have it available those nights.

        1. constant_craving*

          Most daycares don’t let you just pick and choose days to pay for, even if you won’t use the other days. Typically you pay for the entire month or you can’t use them. A small number do allow part-time schedules, but even in those you pay for all the weeks in a month, not just one.

      3. Antilles*

        Also, even with the overnight baby sitter, there’s still the problem of random emergencies during hours not covered by the sitter. OP mentioned the 3 AM calls as a specific example where it’s hardest to get an emergency babysitter (for obvious people are asleep reasons), but he probably doesn’t have an endless supply of people who’re always available on no notice at 7:30 AM on Saturday morning or 6:00 PM on Sunday evenings either.

  31. Beth*

    My only thought is, if it’s possible to make his schedule any more predictable (e.g. to make him always on call on the 1-7 of each month, instead of every 4th week), that might make it easier for him to build this into his custody arrangement and/or arrange for childcare.

    But this might just be a job that’s incompatible with single-parenting a small child. You’re not talking one night a month where he would need to hire a babysitter–you’re talking about a job where he’s on call roughly a quarter of the time. It’s hard to reconcile that with being the sole responsible adult for a kid who’s too young to be left home alone.

    You can’t fix that dilemma for him. But you can make it clear that that 1) he can’t bring the kid with him and 2) he can’t be exempt from on-call duties, and ask him how he wants to proceed. Who knows, maybe he’s actually working on a solution and just needs a month of leeway to get it implemented. Maybe he’s already job hunting and you can wrap up on a mutually friendly note. A straightforward conversation will clarify a lot.

  32. fidget spinner*

    I like Alison’s advice. Without giving too many details, there’s a certain job requirement at my job that my coworker with a kid is exempt from, and I’m bitter about it because it’s really difficult to do because I have dogs. But I feel like I would be less bitter if there were at least an incentive for doing it. There’s not, and I get so annoyed every single time I have to do it.

    I’m trying to get over my feelings, though, lol.

  33. ijustworkhere*

    I work in a place where we need on call staff too. (and no, it’s not because we don’t maintain our equipment….) Rarely does someone have to come in, but when they do, they need to be there.

    We are absolutely transparent and meticulous about explaining the on-call process (which was designed and agreed to by the existing employees as the most fair way to split call and is reviewed annually by them) and we have new hires sign something that says they know and understand the obligation. They get paid some extra to be on call, whether they come out or not.

    Giving them a couple of months to figure this out is fair and I hope the employee can. If not, then this is just not the right job. They need to find one where they can meet the job requirements. Not all jobs are a fit for all people.

  34. umami*

    What a tough situation. I am surprised/saddened that the ex-spouse’s solution didn’t include proposing a new custody arrangement where she can keep the child during those on-call weeks so he can keep his job, rather than trying to get him in trouble.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      She may have her own scheduling conflicts, who knows. Or perhaps she thinks it’s best for him to lose custody for the kid’s safety.

      1. Managing While Female*

        Yep, we don’t know what her situation is. As a mother, I would also be upset to learn that my ex-husband was taking my small child to dangerous worksites in the middle of the night. We don’t know much of anything about these two people. Likely, they’re both just trying to make the best out of a difficult situation. Let’s not jump to the assumption that it’s the woman in the relationship is the one to blame.

    2. tangerineRose*

      How do we know that the ex’s original solution “didn’t include proposing a new custody arrangement where she can keep the child during those on-call weeks”? Although to be fair, if I had a kid and found out my ex was putting the kid in danger, I could understand going for the nuclear option (court).

    3. deinonychus*

      It’s not really on her to accommodate his job though, when his job is the one that is the issue. She probably already had to rearrange her life to suit their agreement, it’s not fair to ask her to change further. It’s his job, he needs to be the one to change. And she probably wasn’t trying to get him in trouble- he took their toddler to overnight job calls multiple times, he probably ignored her friendly requests and she was forced to go to a court order.

    4. New Jack Karyn*

      Why would it be on his ex to propose the solution? It is his work problem; it’s on him to propose the solution to his ex. This should have been done months ago, in court. Before he brought their toddler to a jobsite in the middle of the night.

  35. LW for this one*

    Really appreciate all of the comments and advice so far! Here are a couple of clarifying notes:
    (1) The divorce and the custody issues are fairly new – they weren’t an issue when he was hired a couple of years ago.
    (2) The whole thing is contentious and the ex is not being accommodating or flexible at all.
    (3) The on-call shift rotation is standard in this industry and the current crew prefers the set schedule of one week on, three weeks off as opposed to a couple of days each week. They get a bonus for their on call week and minimum time paid when they come out. While it’s not for most of us, the arrangement works for everyone else on the team.

    1. Maggie*

      The ex has no obligation to be flexible by covering overnight stuff on her off time. I think you’re being more than fair giving him two months to sort it out then. I misunderstood the original letter and thought he took the job not having childcare

      1. Jackalope*

        This is true, but also it’s helpful for the kids if both parents can work with each other to figure this stuff out. Going to getting the court order that he can’t bring the child with him or leave them alone, while understandable, is going the scorched earth route. And while she doesn’t HAVE to be flexible, it’s to the kid’s benefit for the dad not to be fired, and for her to help out with that if possible.

        1. Berin*

          Not sure how that’s the scorched earth route when she is responding to something this guy actually did. I’d be doing the same thing in her shoes.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            I don’t have children, but I’m imagining how I would react if I found out my ex was dragging my child out of bed to take them to a potentially dangerous worksite in the middle of the night.

            Multiple times.

            It would be…unpleasant.

            1. MidnightCharcuterie*

              I wouldn’t let it get to that point because I’d have known that my (then)husband had an on-call shift once a week and I would’ve worked it out so I was responsible for my child during that time… but when I actually went through a divorce my goal was to make the whole experience easier for my child, which isn’t the case in every divorce. It also seems odd to plant yourself so firmly in a place that could get your soon to be ex husband fired, which would severely limit their ability to pay child support.

              1. MidnightCharcuterie*

                Sorry, that should be once a month, not once a week. The rest of the points still stand though.

                1. Berin*

                  If they have joint custody, and it sounds like they do, it’s unlikely that the ex wife is getting child support, as they’re both supporting their kid 50/50. I also think it is WILD that the ex wife is getting blamed for LW’s employee not managing his schedule appropriately. He is an adult, he knew the requirements of his job, and he did not plan for them. That is on him, not the ex wife.

        2. it's gonna be bye bye bye... oh, wrong song*

          Getting a court order that he can’t continue to *endanger their child* seems entirely appropriate.

      2. Beth*

        Yeah, unless a judge mandates a change to the custody schedule so it’s a week on/week off type setup and his ex has their child on his on-call weeks (which I think would be reasonable for him to at least ask the judge for, but 1. no guarantee he’d get it, their current schedule may have been the decision for other good reasons and 2. it’s his to ask for or not, his employer can’t be involved in that), it sounds like custody won’t be the answer here.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      Thanks for the additional details.

      Given that the situation is fairly new, I agree with your suggestion to give the employee some time to sort things out. He may likely be hoping that the custody arrangement is still in flux and that scheduling will get sorted through the court and/or mediation processes. Or it may just take some time to work out other family support arrangements.

    3. Observer*

      The whole thing is contentious and the ex is not being accommodating or flexible at all.

      Unless you are more involved in the personal side of this, you don’t really know how reasonable or not the ex is being. The fact that he apparently did this multiple times without asking for help makes me think that there is more than meets the eye here. And it’s also possible that they are both not great.

      I think that you are being as kind as you can. But I also think that you need to disentangle yourself from the personal stuff. Sure, give him some time to figure it out. I do believe that if people understand that this is absolutely a temporary thing that has a an end-date, they will be mostly OK with it. Most people understand that if an employer is flexible they can benefit as well at some point.

      But don’t get into how he should fix the problem, much less into whether his ex is handling things well. She could be the Wicked Witch of the West and you would still need to stay out of it. And you *really* have no way to know.

      1. Myrin*

        FWIW, that sounded like a neutral statement from OP to me, not like any sort of judgment (and also like an answer to what many commenters are asking about: “Can’t he figure out a different schedule with his ex?” – “No, he already tried that and ex said no.”).

        1. Lana Kane*

          Same – I can see it being both a neutral or a charged statement and when speaking face to face, mannerisms and tone would inform which one it is. In writing, I can take it at face value (ex is not budging – whatever the reasons are are immaterial).

      2. Laura*

        Yeah, it sucks that the guy did this, but we don’t know that he’s the problem here. We also don’t know what led to the divorce. Maybe he cheated on her or did something else shitty, but non-abusive. She’s perfectly within her rights to say she’s done dealing with his stuff.

    4. Insert Clever Name Here*

      OP, you sound like a conscientious and sympathetic person — your employee is lucky to have you. Telling him he has 2 months to find a solution or he will need a new job is really the kindest thing you can do here.

    5. Ghostlight*

      You’re being incredibly compassionate and going above and beyond for this employee. I have one suggestion that I don’t think I’ve seen floated when you mention taking the employee off the rotation for two months.

      Could he cover the days in his on call week that he doesn’t have custody and then cover an extra day (maybe at the top or tail of the week) for the person/people who get his extra time? This way he’s got some good will built up while trying to get his ducks in a row and just isn’t completely off the schedule. (Or perhaps he does his 4 days and then one day extra for each other colleague and then you can maybe even buy 12 weeks of time for him instead of 8 since everyone would theoretically take a couple of extra days for one week in a month and then each person has 3 months of the lighter full week.). That gives everyone a little more time to schedule and also, 3 months is more than reasonable to give the poor guy a helpful off ramp as well. If he leaves, I’m guessing it will take at least a month to get someone new up to speed for the overnights based on some of your other replies.

    6. Martin Blackwood*

      Honestly, im surprised he didnt use this on call requirement to convince the judge to get full weeks as opposed to MWF or whatever. And yeah, i can easily see why theyd like a more “set it and forget it” schedule where they can number every week from 1-4 in january and be able to tell their cousin whether they can go to their wedding in august and their in laws whether the first week of november will be a good time to visit. as opposed to….definitely some god-awful schedule no matter what if its day by day with alternating weekends or mwf/tt/ss. I bet a lot more trading would happen with day by day which would make it more inconsistant….yeah.

      1. Martin Blackwood*

        also: idk how payroll works but i do know changing 1 person a different time code each week is a lot less complicating than charging 4 people various small amounts of time each week.

        OP your two month proposition is great. do it.

    7. ResuMAYDAY*

      You’ve mentioned more than few times the unaccommodating behavior of the mother. How do you actually know that? If you’re taking your employee at his word, please consider that you don’t know what transpired in their marriage AND divorce. You’d be taking the word of someone who has been making a lot of poor decisions lately (underwritten by you).
      I hope this employee elevates himself to the level of generosity you’re showing him, rather than realizing he can continue to take advantage of it. Because of him, a new addition to your job description is to monitor if your employees are secretly taking non-employees and minors to the job site during off-hours. That sounds…unpleasant.
      Please send an update in a few weeks!

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Yeah, this is where I fall. The only way OP could know the ex “is not being accommodating or flexible at all” is that his employee tells him. The same employee who has shown a stunning lack of judgment in bringing his 3-year-old to a worksite in the middle of the night. And/or leaving them home alone when he went on a callout.

        I am not convinced this guy has actually tried many options. Including telling his lawyer and the court about this condition of his employment, and requesting that custody accommodate it.

    8. bzh*

      LW you are doing a good job managing this situation. Two months is a good accomodation for him to figure stuff out. He does have options. If the ex isn’t being flexible, the judge can help. “Do you want your child’s husband to be unemployed? Let’s figure out an arrangement that will keep him employed.” Another option is some hospitals have emergency childcare available 24/7. Babysitters, neighbors, friends, family might also be willing to help out. He just needs to coordinate everything beforehand.

    9. Mel*

      Why are you wanting to keep someone on so much when they’ve intentionally deceived you, endangered their child, and opened the company up to massive issues should said child have been hurt or a complaint made? More than once. And only stopped when mandated to by a court.

      These are massive issues that could have ended really, really poorly for everyone involved.

  36. Myrin*

    Honestly, OP, I think you’re doing everything perfectly already. You are kind and compassionate while also being reasonable and realistic.
    In the end, the goal can’t be “keep this guy in this job at all cost” and I think you know that; it’s very admirable of you to try and find a solution that works for everyone but if the end result ends up being “guy leaves job and you hire someone else” then that is alright, too, and you didn’t fail – at being a manager or being a human – for it.

  37. Kate*

    There is a childcare provider in our city (not a particularly big city) that runs 24/7 childcare. It’s set up primarily for folks who have non-“traditional” work hours, but several private companies keep them on retainer for unexpected travel, etc.

    Might be worth seeing if this exists in your city and whether it’s a benefit your company would consider providing families in the future.

    (Feeling very spoiled right now that my employer explicitly prohibits discrimination based on family status)

    1. East Coast Commenter*

      Not sure how a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of family status would change the OP’s situation, particularly where the on-call shift is an essential job condition.

      1. Cordelia*

        I would think that if discrimination was a factor here, and I don’t think it is, it would work both ways – the non-parents would be being discriminated against based on family status if they have to work all the on-calls

      2. Kate*

        If you genuinely feel like Googling it, Johnstone vs Canada Border Services Agency.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          A quick scan of that case shows a very important distinction

          The CBSA had accommodated the request of a set shift for other workers, who made the request based on religious or medical grounds, but refused to do so for Ms. Johnstone

    2. Grasshopper*

      This isn’t discrimination based on family status. The proposed solution is actually what happens when there are policies in place to protect people.

      The employer isn’t immediately firing the staff person for not having childcare. That could be interpreted as discrimination based on family status. The employer is proposing a two month time period where the employee won’t be on call. This should give the employee enough time to find childcare or another solution. Since there is no way for the employer to adapt the role around childcare that is a very reasonable temporary accommodation for the employee’s family status.

      1. Kate*

        In our context, it actually is:

        “ In both cases, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal initially found that employers had discriminated against their employees based on family status by refusing to accommodate the employees’ childcare obligations. ”

        1. Java*

          That’s in reference to specific situations where the employers had provided similar accommodations for other employees but denied the same accommodations for childcare reasons – it’s not a blanket ruling that employers must accommodate an employee’s childcare obligations.

          In this case, the employer has not offered a flexible schedule or to provide the same job without any on-call time to anyone else and is just denying it to this employee because it’s for childcare reasons, so it’s not discrimination.

    3. PotatoRock*

      Are you US-based? I think of “can’t discriminate based on family status” to mean the employer doesn’t get to make decisions based on family status, but they can absolutely have work requirements that disproportionately affect people with different family situations. So in this case, the employer cannot say “we only hire married people” but they can say “you’re on call once a month, and you can’t bring a kid along” – but they can’t specify whether your childcare is the kids’ other parent, a nanny, your in-laws, your neighbor, whatever. Having an on-call job is disproportionately harder for some people because of their family situation, but the employer is not discriminating by family situation.

  38. Parenthesis Guy*

    I’d talk to your team about the situation and see about letting him switch on days that he does have custody for days that he doesn’t. If he has the child for say Mon/Wed/Fri one week and Tues/Thurs the next, then let him take the days he doesn’t have custody and call it good. But make sure your team is ok with that.

    1. Parenthesis Guy*

      I see your team is not ok with that. I would recommend having the conversation with the tech now. If he’s unable to fix the situation, I’d see about letting him go immediately with as much severance as you can offer. If you can’t offer severance, then I think your two month plan is a good idea.

  39. woops*

    i run a 24/7 help desk/desktop on call team. personally i try to keep it fair, but i work with people when i can. for example – in this case, i’d look at not rotating just weeks on /off. how about adjusting this person’s schedule so they cover more time when the kids are at mom’s to offset the additional time his peers are working the normal rotation. make them cover the holidays when they dont have the kid, whatever. just balance it out.

  40. JPalmer*

    What about restructuring pay/labor, where he will not receive as much money because he is unable to do a core part of the role.

    If he was making ~90k for doing the job+oncall, saying “We understand your situation, but it isn’t fair to your coworkers who would have to pick up your slack, you have two choices here. We can move forward with a dismissal and provide a reference as you are a good employee who is not able to be on-call, or we can create a different position with a lower compensation level.”

    Then do the math of how much it costs for folks to be on-call and allocate that.

    Ideally, folks should get paid more if they’re on-call more frequently. Maybe pair this with an announcement mentioning to the coworkers that there is a reduction in pay and that money goes towards the folks who now need to be on-call more frequently.

    I think even with this, saying “We will also be interviewing for a permanent replacement. This is a difficult situation for everyone involved. We cannot have a business liability, we cannot allow a child to be endangered, but we also do not want to remove your income and have appreciated your at the company”

    Like I think this is probably a higher-empathy solution than just giving him a set amount of notice. It also gives him more choice in how he wants to handle the problems.

    1. Colette*

      I’ve done a one-week-a-month on-call schedule, and there is no reasonable amount of money I’d take to go dowe to a one-week-on-two-weeks-off on-call schedule. So if he can’t do it, they need to find someone else; paying people more is unlikely to make them more willing to do it, unless it’s a lot (a lot) of money.

      1. Pharmgirl*

        Yes, we have on call and I would personally give up the on call bonus not to do it (not actually an option). what if everyone asks for the lower tiered position with lower pay to avoid on call?

        1. KAZ2Y5*

          As another pharmgirl, I totally agree with you. One of my requirements for my current job was no call!
          And just by looking at some of the suggestions here, there are way too many people who have never had call in their lives but want to talk about it!

    2. Beth*

      This is probably not an option. From OP’s comments, they’ve looked into both changing the on-call schedule and hiring additional help, and found that neither is doable. Their business need is 4 employees working the industry-standard hours and call schedule.

      I’m also not sure why this would require more empathy than normal. People lose jobs all the time for much less reason than being unavailable for the required work hours. It sounds like there are a lot of openings in the industry, so there’s no reason to think this employee won’t be able to find another job. It’s kind to name the problem and give him time to either fix it or move on; expecting more than that would be really unreasonable.

  41. Just Me*

    Honestly, this writer is a lot more generous than I would like to be. Is emergency childcare expensive, yes, but if you choose a job that has an on call requirement you are choosing to either negotiate your childcare duties to your not on call weeks, or obtain a solution for emergency care. Just like it costs me more to drive to work than my coworker who lives closer, it is a cost of the job that I chose to take. Endangering a small child is not an option. This guy is already caught doing something he knew he shouldn’t have workout even asking for other options. If he can’t make it work then this isn’t his job

    1. allathian*

      Yes, I get what you’re saying. That said, the employee got hired about 2 years ago when he was still married, and the contentious divorce only happened 6 months ago. I can understand why the LW is more lenient here than they presumably would be if someone had interviewed and been hired to do a coverage-based job as a single parent. But it’s clearly not tenable in the long term.

  42. CommanderBanana*

    As an employer, I would really not love the liability I could be facing if someone’s unattended child got injured at a worksite.* As a co-parent, I would really not love the potential danger to my kid or them being woken up at night to go on-call with their parent.

    *We don’t know how old the kid is – 4 would be a lot more alarming than 14 – but I’m assuming that on-call means this person is attending to the situations mentioned in the letter, and that doesn’t sound safe to have a kid either underfoot or set up by themselves in an office in an otherwise empty building.

    1. Mireya*

      Someone (“BlueSky”) posted about this just last week, in the May 1 post about whether WFH means literally work only at one’s home.

      In BlueSky’s state, it does because of worker compensation laws. Their employer had someone who was “working remotely” but not at home, and that time had their child with them. Something awful happened and the child was killed, and the liability was on the employer.

    2. allathian*

      Yes, this, and unless the kid has a disability that means they require constant adult supervision when they’re awake, 14 years old is plenty old enough to be left at home alone for a few hours at night when they’d most likely be sleeping.

  43. Ellen N.*

    The employee has poor judgment. He took a job when he couldn’t figure out how to meet its requirements. He then brought his child into a dangerous situation instead of calling the child’s mother.

    The simple solution would be to hire an overnight babysitter on the nights he’s on call. The babysitter would stay at his house when he’s on call.

    1. LW for this one*

      This isn’t financially worth it. Even a cheap sitter would eat up a significant portion of his paycheck if they had to stay overnight for a week.

        1. Observer*

          I think that you hit the nail on the head.

          LW, you cannot solve this issue. If it’s solvable, then the only one who can solve it is your employee.

          If him a reasonable – but not too long – stretch of time to see if he can figure something out. And then, either you will have a solution or you do need to let him go.

          Not for “not having childcare”. But for not being able to do the job safely.

        2. LJ*

          So… what, the commentariat just goes along with “duh hire a babysitter” as if the guy haven’t thought about it before?

          1. kalli*

            It’s not LW’s job to fix any employee’s personal circumstances. It isn’t any employer’s job. If the employee can’t fix it in six months, the employer can’t do it in two.

            So they need to step back in their sphere and look at what they can do, which is not ‘duh hire a babysitter’ because that’s not the employer’s job.

  44. Grantham*

    Absurd that his lifestyle choices are elevated above others. He knew about the requirement when he took the job, and has been violating company policy by taking the child along. His chaotic personal life shouldn’t be allowed to affect co-workers. Not all jobs are suitable for all people. There are plenty of solutions – he could get a nanny or a lodger to watch the child for that week of the month, make arrangements to stay with family, work something out with the child’s other parent or otherwise take responsibility.

    1. Tradd*

      Agreed! I recently had to terminate someone who left two hours early, with unfinished work, on her first two days.m so she could get her kids from school. When we talked on her third day, it turns out she expected to get her kids from school daily. This was not mentioned at all during the interview process. We offered her reduced hours, which she rejected, so we parted ways. She knew when hired (we had her sign a document confirming she understood) that job had strict 8-5 hours, in office only, WFH not possible. Job can be done remote, but owners don’t approve WFH for anyone. She still took the job. Flex hours not possible.

      Situations like the LW’s and well as we just went through, when there are strict requirements, don’t take the job if you can’t meet the requirements. Period. End of story. Why should the rest of the team have to have their schedules mucked with because of one person?

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I have unfortunately worked with people like this, and they seemed genuinely shocked that having children was not actually a get-out-of-work-free card for whenever and wherever they needed it.

    2. LW for this one*

      He was not in this situation when he took the job. This situation is, at most, 6 months old. He’s worked here for a couple of years. A nanny is not feasible. He’s not making enough for someone to stay over every night for a week.

      1. Tradd*

        Still not fair for the rest of the team for their on-call schedule to get changed due to this one employee’s situation. He showed poor judgement bringing the kid out on late night calls anyway. The liability exposure is huge.

      2. CommanderBanana*

        I really appreciate the empathy you’re showing this employee, and I’m sure he does too. That being said, I think the focus here should be more on the fact that your employee committed a fireable offense, placed your company and not-insignificant risk, and placed his child at not-insignificant risk multiple times AND, you only found out about this because his ex-wife alerted you. If she hadn’t, I can only assume he would have continued doing this!

        He didn’t even give you a chance to work with him by coming to you in advance and explaining the situation and asking for coverage while he worked out the childcare arrangements.

        This is such a staggering lapse in judgment that I would honestly not be comfortable keeping this person on my team.

        1. CityMouse*

          This is where I am too. This is a huge safety violation and he went the “forgiveness not permission route. Had he come to you first, this would be a very different letter.

        2. Myrin*

          Yeah, more than anything else, I’m alarmed that it did apparently not once occur to the employee to alert OP to his new circumstances on his own and to try and find a collaborative solution. From everything we’re seeing, he planned on bringing his kid along indefinitely!

        3. Observer*

          This is such a staggering lapse in judgment that I would honestly not be comfortable keeping this person on my team.

          This is true. Yes, he was in a bind. But his “solution” was ridiculous. And he didn’t don anything to reduce the risks to anyone.

        4. EmmaPoet*

          Agreed, if he had proactively come to LW and said, hey, this is the situation, here’s what I’m trying to do to fix it, then I’d be willing to work with him. Instead, we’re in the situation where the company could be in big trouble and his child could have been hurt.

      3. Observer*

        He was not in this situation when he took the job

        This is the only part that is really relevant to you.

        The rest is not your issue, problem or thing to resolve.

    3. SleepyHollowGirl*

      He probably can’t use any of those solutions. Or maybe he did use those solutions, and one night…or some nights, he couldn’t.

      And maybe he should have gone to his manager and said “I can’t be on call anymore” knowing that would mean he’d have no more job. But I can definitely see why someone who wants their life to stay together–who wants a place to live with their child and money for groceries would take their kid to a work site “just once” in order to keep their job.

      I don’t mean that the LW should take this guy off the oncall rotation — it’s a job requirement, and he can’t meet it any more–but I really feel for him.

  45. MrsPookie*

    Being on call a week at a time could be draining on any given week of snafus. Why not make it two days on two off (or something like Firefighters do) and then he can arrange possible backup care or incentive if others want to handle his ‘shifts for Emergent issues? Dad shaming by losing his job and trying to do the right thing by his child isnt he way.

    1. JustAThought*

      This is not dad shaming. It’s the job and standard for industry as LW has stated. 3 other coworkers like the predictability of system as is. Not all jobs work for all situation. LW is being more than fair here with 2 month runway.

    2. Tradd*

      Parent shaming doesn’t come into it. He knew the requirements when he took the job. If he couldn’t meet those requirements, he shouldn’t have taken the job.

      1. constant_craving*

        He was meeting them when he took the job. He had an unexpected change in life circumstances.

        1. Observer*

          True. But it’s still not parent shaming.

          In fact, maybe there should be some parent shaming here. His solution to a change in his circumstances was to put his kid at risk, and do nothing to mitigate the problem. That’s just not ok!

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      His 3 coworkers want to keep the current schedule.

    4. Beth*

      There’s no shaming in acknowledging that an employee’s life change isn’t compatible with the requirements of their job. It’s good to accommodate employees where possible, but it’s not always possible. When it’s not, a good employer owes their employees clarity about the situation, and ideally some time to transition if their needs are really incompatible with the business. They don’t owe it to their employee to restructure the entire team/business to make the job work for the employee.

    5. tangerineRose*

      Is it dad-shaming to say he shouldn’t take his kid to a dangerous area, especially when he has a job to do and probably can’t properly supervise his kid?

  46. Journey of man*

    Everybody is talking about custody, but did it ever occur to you that he might be widowed?

    1. Be Gneiss*

      the LW clarified that it is a custody issue, and that it is a new issue that popped up after the employee had been there a couple years.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      No because the man’s ex-wife (a human being, not a ghost) is the one who alerted he company to the fact that the man brought their child into work when called in.

      1. Maroon*

        This sounds like a crummy set of circumstances for everyone involved, but I love the concept of a widower’s deceased spouse haunting his workplace to make him stop taking their kid along on work outings. I’d haunt someone over that too!

    3. LW for this one*

      He is not. The ex is in the picture and they share custody, but the arrangement is not flexible and she is unwilling or unable to help him with this.

    4. Cordelia*

      no, it didn’t because I read the letter
      but even if he was, it would still be a problem that he didn’t have childcare for the on-call shifts, it wouldn’t make that ok

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      “his ex-wife found out, got a court order that prevented him from both taking the kid with him and leaving him home alone, and also alerted us”

    6. Shutterdoula*

      I actually read the letter in which he discussed his ex wife’s actions, so no, I didn’t make up a fictional dead wife like you did.

    7. musical chairs*

      You got me! Quite literally did not occur to me that she would be dead, no. I cannot say I had that thought even once.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Same here. I’ve never heard of a ghost getting a court order that affected the living.

  47. CommanderBanana*

    After reading the comments and the LW’s clarifying remarks (thank you!) I think the headline should be “Do I have to fire someone because they brought a child to a worksite at night to respond to emergency calls?”

    And I think that answer should be yes, most likely.

    1. wavefunction*

      This is a good reframing, and it’s just an unfortunate situation. I think the LW’s plan of two months to figure things out is very reasonable.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        The more of LW’s comments I’m seeing, the more I’m thinking that the LW has a pretty big blind spot when it comes to this employee.

        This has been going on for at least six months, and the LW only found out about this because the ex-wife alerted them. Otherwise, was the employee just going to continue bringing this poor kid to his worksite in the middle of the night until someone else found out?

        1. LW for this one*

          It’s very surprising that no one that made an emergency call reported that a CHILD came out along with the emergency technician, but they did not. I would have thought I would have been alerted the first time it happened.

          1. BigLawEx*

            I’m trying to decide if I’d call. The only time I called about someone coming to my house was when they had Covid. I was like…nope, and had to live with whatever the issue was until they could find someone who probably didn’t have Covid and was willing to come out during 2020.

            If the kid was in the car, who would know? I’m pretty much not looking in cars at night.

            1. Coverage Associate*

              So many variables about whether the kid is in danger, whether the kid is in the way, etc. I know I was one of those babies who could be put to sleep with a car ride. I probably slept in the car in the attached garage sometimes. I was a baby before those car seats with bases that stay strapped into the car and seats that snap out. My sibling would scream during car rides, but they could make a place for themselves to sleep with just a clean towel in a quiet corner.

              My apartment building could have a car in the driveway, and if the car had its windows open and the apartment had its windows open, we could hear if something or someone were up in the parked car.

              But the roof of a tall building, which is where things like air condensers and water tanks often are? You wouldn’t be able to hear the car on the ground, and you wouldn’t want a kid past rolling over age on the roof.

          2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

            Kid was locked in the truck, I expect, out of sight.

          3. CityMouse*

            LW this is just so not good. I don’t think you’re really considering just how bad this is. If I had a contractor show up like this with a kid to a dangerous situation, I’d get rid of the service 100%.

          4. a good mouse*

            How old is the child? I agree it’s odd nobody mentioned it, but I’d be much more likely to call and be like wtf if a toddler showed up than if there was a 10 year old playing on his phone by the door while dad worked.

          5. PotatoRock*

            Yeah, I am not sure people would call, if the kid wasn’t in imminent danger (worksite dependent) – I might be inclined to think that parent is making the safest choice available to them, and not much confidence that involving authorities is going to help. Some of the people who deliver Amazon packages in my neighborhood clearly have kids in the car, and I am not going to call that in

            1. allathian*

              Yes, but especially if the kids who are small enough that they can’t undo their seat belts/baby seat harnesses without help, they’re unlikely to be in any danger for as long as it takes the driver to drop off a package.

              A worksite is something different, as is potentially leaving the kid in the car for hours at a time at night while fixing something. The kid, regardless of age, should be in bed.

              1. New Jack Karyn*

                Yeah, probably the worst age would be 4-5 or so. Old enough to be mobile (and quick!), a good chance they’d stay awake in the situation, and absolutely zero judgment on what they should not touch and where they should not go.

  48. BellyButton*

    Uggg I am guessing that since he hasn’t made arraignments with the child’s mother that they do not have a good co-parenting situation and stick to the letter. Which is a shame. My BF has 50/50 custody of his child with his ex and they are both so flexible. We are a family and help each other.

    What about changing up how many days a person is on call? Most custody agreements are very clear- every Mon-Wed, and every other weekend. If LW made the on call days 2-3 days at a time, like firefighters, then it would be more accessible to people. I can’t imagine being on call 24/7 for an entire week, that would be so disruptive if you weren’t in a 2 person household- not just kids, but even pets and things like lawn and house cleaning services would be disrupted.

    1. LW for this one*

      This is the standard in our industry and how the rest of the team would prefer to keep it. While it doesn’t look like a different on call schedule would work, we did float the idea and the team did not like the idea. They have incentives for being on call and like that they have one set week where they can’t make plans, but three where they can.

      1. BellyButton*

        Thank you for clarifying. I just feel bad for the guy, but I am a bleeding heart and if I knew him I would offer to watch his child. I know as an employer you can’t put his individual needs ahead of your business or the other employees, I really appreciate you looking for a solution. I would hate for him to lose his job and possible custody because he is in a rough spot. It’s no win for all those involved.

        1. Cordelia*

          really? one week in every four, you would remain close to home, no other plans, no drinking, no guests, and no essential things to do the next day, so that he could drop the child off at your house at 3am? Or you’d go and sleep on his sofa?
          A childcare plan of “have a friend watch the kid” is not realistic in this situation. Not every job is suitable for every person, and this one doesn’t sound suitable for a single parent.

  49. BellyButton*

    I just called a friend who has a 24/7 business- and asked how he does it. He has people who are on call from 7pm-7am. They aren’t employees, they are contractors and he pays them a small fee to be on call, and then pays them an hourly rate for the job they do. That way his full time employees don’t have to be on call.

    Just throwing ideas out there!

    1. kalli*

      That’s an entirely different model and would take longer to implement than two months.

    2. LC*

      Interesting solution! And then you don’t have over tired workers the next day if it’s a busy night for call outs

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Likely the OP’s company has already considered this option, as it is thier business.
      Sounds more expensive for the employer than the relatively few call-outs the LW mentions, 0-5 the week someone is on-call.

  50. LawDog*

    Respectfully, I think everyone is making this a much bigger / tougher problem than it needs to be.

    The job was advertised as having a mandatory on-call requirement. The person saw the requirements and applied for the job. He accepted the job knowing this was a requirement. He has failed to structure his life – or the structure he hoped for isn’t there – and thus, the job is not a fit.
    Giving him two months to figure out a solution is very generous and all that need be done. While it’s great to accommodate the individual, jobs have a design to them – some fit some people and not others; they are not intended to fit all people universally.
    I greatly enjoy this site and the discussion, but I encourage a balance between good-for-the-person and good-for-the-company. Twisting and turning a position to meet the needs of each employee isn’t good for a company in the long run.

    1. LW for this one*

      I would not have hired him if he couldn’t meet the requirements, but he did for the first couple of years. The situation he’s in now is fairly new. But I agree with you: Twisting and turning a position to meet the needs of each employee isn’t good for a company in the long run.

      1. KTB2*

        I would even argue that twisting and turning the position isn’t necessarily good for the employees either. In the short term, it might feel like it’s helping, but by giving everyone a clear explanation of how things work and keeping things consistent, you’re actually doing everyone a favor. If the goalposts move all the time, it’s really difficult to determine if you’re frustrated with the job itself or the constant changes.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          That’s my thought. Giving him two months to resolve this means each of his coworkers will need to be on call 2-3 additional weeks. That’s already asking for a lot from people who like their current arrangement. Making any more changes could lead to you losing one or more of the other three workers.

      2. fidget spinner*

        Have you “broken the news” to the other employees that they’re going to have extra time on-call for the next two months while he figures it out? Because tbh I think you should be prepared for backlash if you haven’t. They’ll likely have to cancel plans and all that. To paraphrase the saying, you can’t set the other employees on fire to keep this guy warm, lol.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Even if they replace the guy right now, unless hiring in this field is faster than I expect, they’d still be absorbing more on-call shifts for a while, though. That ship has sailed.

          1. fidget spinner*

            Psychologically, a lot of people would be more willing to temporarily cover knowing the problem is actively being solved by hiring someone else… rather than covering for him for two months and the problem STILL not being solved. If he doesn’t figure it out, then they’ll have to cover even longer so they can start hiring…..

  51. Person from the Resume*

    His family is not always available, …

    This is the only way I see he can make it work with his ex-wife not wanting to change custody agreement. His family or a friend needs to be available to help. The regular monthly schedule works in favor of that. He just needs his family/friend to make it their priority to help him and be available on the days he has the child and is on-call. Maybe the child sleeps at their house so he doesn’t need to be woken, but it sounds like the call-ins are quite variable so maybe they just need to be at home so he can drop the child off.

    The employee makes extra money while on-call so perhaps he can pay his family something for this help they provide easing the difficulty of being available on those days.

    IDK. I can’t tell if bringing the child into work was a last resort and the employee was just hoping to not be called in so he hasn’t really tried to coordinate with his family in advance. Or if it’s a no.

    Again I think the LW has done everything he can, but he can give the guy two months to either sort it out or job hunt. But in fairness to his coworkers, it’s needs to resolved sooner rather than later.

  52. CubeFarmer*

    The obvious answer seems to be what Alison suggested, but it’s absolutely NOT LW’s job to suggest that to the employee (and, in fact, doing so might backfire spectacularly.)

  53. JO*

    Love these threads where every other commenter apparently has a better idea of how the organization should be running their overall business lol

    1. Jaybeetee*

      Yeah I’m a bit surprised at the tone of a lot of the comments, in that historically, this commentariat doesn’t tend to be super friendly about parents bringing their kids to work (outside the rare emergency), or unable to do aspects of their jobs because of their kids. I’m especially surprised at the suggestions to basically dump more burden on the guys’ colleagues, because this commentariat generally doesn’t go in *at all* for that sort of thing. Maybe people are more sympathetic in this case due to what’s perceived as the unpredictable nature of on-call work.

      1. doreen*

        I’m sure it’s about the on-call work. I suspect most of the commenters work in fields where being on-call or even getting calls in an emergency isn’t something that happens. I remember once, I was talking about being annoyed that my job changed to a rotation – previously, each manager was expected to answer emergency calls regarding their area of responsibility. My coworkers and I preferred not to rotate for a lot of reasons but a couple of commenters were insistent that my job should hire managers to work nights and weekends – even though I didn’t even average one phone call a week and didn’t have to show up anywhere even once in 15 years. There was no way my employer was going to hire at least three additional people to work nights and weekends – and all of us preferred the occasional phone call to being assigned to work 4-12 or 12-8 five nights a week.

      2. ?*

        People here really don’t understand or have sympathy for the fact that some industries don’t follow the 9-5 desk job model. Anything about being on-call, working nights and weekends, coverage, not being able to be flexible with hours or tardiness—it all gets people very worked up.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I suspect most of the commenters are white collar (I sure am), and many struggle to relate to blue collar environments and job standards.

      3. tangerineRose*

        As long as the kids are well-behaved and aren’t in danger and not causing co-workers hassles or making it a harder for the parent to get work done, I’m OK with kids being brought to work. I remember one co-worker’s daughter was sometimes at the workplace, but the kid was quiet and well-behaved and old enough to not need constant supervision, and it was a regular office with cubicles and not dangerous.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yeah, but that’s an office with cubicles. It’s pretty funny to think that maintenance is the same situation at all.

          1. EmmaPoet*

            Agreed. One of my coworkers used to bring his kid in to our library when Kid was on school breaks, but Kid was old enough to play quietly on the computer or read or whatever, and we were in a safe space. Bringing the kid along for midnight emergency calls is not the same thing at all.

    2. fidget spinner*

      I love the ones that are like “just hire an overnight position, duh, you dummies.”

      Like, well gee, if that were a feasible option, don’t you think someone would’ve thought about it by now?!

  54. Alex*

    My mom had an on-call job when I was a kid and I definitely remember having to go with her. It was NOT safe or appropriate for me to be there. She left me in the car for a couple of hours while she worked :\

    This guy has already tried getting around needing childcare at the potential risk of his child’s welfare. What other shortcuts is he going to take? What other poor judgement calls?

    I get that this is a real problem for him but he needed to bring this to your attention and try to work out a plan BEFORE the situation arose, not after he got caught bringing his kid in. The fact that he didn’t makes me not trust whatever solution he may claim to have in the future.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      Yeah, I wrote a comment that’s still in pending, but one point I made is that essentially, LW has to step back and let him solve this.

      One thing I forgot to mention in that comment, that might be very hard for LW to do… if he says he has it solved, you gotta take him at his word. It’s icky, but it feels like LW is already really in the weeds of trying to solve this for him, when it’s not their job to figure out his childcare. He can find a way to do it or he can’t. And – uncomfortably – if he finds a *bad* way to do it, that’s on him, not the LW.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Should the LW take him at his word? What if he does, and the man keeps bringing his kid to work, and the kid gets hurt? Would the LW be more liable knowing that his employee had done this in the past?

        1. Jaybeetee*

          Pardon me, I meant more in terms of he stops bringing the kid with him and says he’s made arrangements. Obviously if he’s still taking the child with him, that’s a problem. This was in response to comments from the LW talking about how the guy’s ex isn’t cooperative, how babysitters are too expensive, etc. It doesn’t mean keep letting him do it. It means, don’t get into the weeds on his childcare arrangements or how he’s making it work.

  55. K*

    I wonder if someone else on the rotation would be willing to take the kid in case of a late night emergency? I would certainly be willing to do that for a coworker assuming it would be reciprocated.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      Whoa, no. No way. That would be completely inappropriate for an employer to ask.

      If employees want to work out a childcare arrangement totally independently from their employer, fine (although seeing how stuff like carpool arrangements end up on this site, as a manager I don’t know that I’d be thrilled with that either), but an employer asking employees to start babysitting a coworker’s kid when they’re on-call? No.

    2. Tradd*

      Wow. Just no. Totally inappropriate for employer to suggest that. And you’re not asking just the coworker to do that – his family would have to deal with it. Way out of line. If the employees arranged it amongst themselves, that’s one thing.

    3. RussianInTexas*

      No, absolutely not.
      As a childless person myself, that would be a 100% no go, in general, I am not babysitting for a coworker (I don’t even babysit for friends or family).
      But if my employer asked? Totally inappropriate.

    4. Beth*

      If the employee in question has a close friend on their team and they work out a childcare arrangement privately between themselves, that’s their business. But this is not something a manager can propose, mediate, or otherwise be involved in on their employee’s behalf. It’s asking too much of the other employees by a long shot.

      1. Rainy*

        Yeah–I can’t imagine how I’d react if my manager told me I had to babysit a coworker’s kid so they can be on call. That’s basically making me be on call too!

    5. Observer*

      wonder if someone else on the rotation would be willing to take the kid in case of a late night emergency? I would certainly be willing to do that for a coworker assuming it would be reciprocated.

      Yes. And that is actually one of the reasons why the LW absolutely *cannot* make the suggestion. Because the pressure to “be nice and helpful” coming from the boss is unfair, even if that’s not what the LW says.

      From the point of view of an employee, it looks like this: The job has some significant downsides, but I get paid reasonably well for it and I knew what I was getting myself into. Now you want me to add *childcare* – and for a kid I don’t really know?! Sure, sure. You say that it’s “only if I’m willing” but are you going to look at me differently over this? Are you going to penalize me?

    6. Cordelia*

      it’s not an unforeseen emergency though, it’s part of his job. You can’t have all the employees sharing their kids around in the middle of the night, and you definitely can’t have the employer advising them to do that.

    7. Nikko*

      Nope. Even if someone was willing to and wanted to do this, you don’t know what other people’s home lives are like and you don’t really know everything about your coworkers. You could be taking your child out of the pan and placing them directly into the fire. You just don’t know what secrets people have in their households.

  56. Grapes are my Jam*

    The employee knew it was his on-call week, and he knew that he didn’t have childcare. He was white-knuckling through these shifts, hoping he wouldn’t be called. He could have approached you himself. His plan was to just keep doing this and hope not to get busted. There are about 15 boxes of ‘bad employee behavior’ that this checks off to me.
    I can’t imagine why you are working so hard to make this work.
    Also, stop letting your personal biases sway your management actions.

  57. Have you had enough water today?*

    Just to play devils advocate here, he accepted the role fully understanding what his obligations were, & now, because he lied about being able to fulfil those obligations without issue his co-workers are being asked to do more than their fair share for two months while he fixes the lie that he told.

    Not only that, but I see a LOT of comments saying that his co-workers need to be more flexible, which I think is an unfair burden to place on them. I feel like the fact that he is a single father is being considered over the fact that he lied & that lie is now causing additional work for the rest of the team. If he lied about his skill set would the same considerations be offered or is this a special favour because he is able to reproduce?

    1. Tradd*

      Do the other on-call employees have family? As a single, childless by choice person, I’ve been trying hard not to inject this into this situation, but your comment was the catalyst. I’ve been in the workforce since the early 90s. At virtually every company, I’ve had extra work dumped on me my parents leaving early, coming in late, etc., for anything to do with their kids – even sports events. But when the childless people (even those married without kids) asked for ANY special consideration, they were almost always told no. Why should coworkers suffer because this guy can’t get his childcare situation straightened out?

    2. constant_craving*

      There have been updates in the comments that make it clear he did his job without issue for years and the recent divorce changed things. It’s still a situation that needs to be sorted out, but he did not lie when he took the job; he just didn’t have a crystal ball.

      1. Grapes are my Jam*

        But he lied (by omission, and possibly overtly) when he took his kid to the work site. He knew his week was approaching (or weeks, because we don’t know how many times he’s done this). He failed to line up child care beforehand, which means he is irresponsible with his child. This was not sprung on him last minute, and he planned to get away with it for as long as he neede to. That means he is irresponsible with his career.

      2. Tradd*

        Doesn’t matter to me if he did the job for sever yearsal without issue and that this childcare issue is only six months old. Childcare issue is this employee’s issue to solve, not his coworkers. But it sounds like the coworkers are going to be screwed anyway, either for the two months the boss might give this guy to get things solved or until someone new is found for the position.

        I’m amazed at the number of people who think this guy gets a pass simply because he’s a parent and that the other coworkers should have to suck it up and have THEIR schedules changed. What about THEIR family life?

        1. Grapes are my Jam*

          I agree. Like I said earlier (or later, who’s counting) I don’t understand why the LW is trying so hard to make the unworkable work. Childcare is part of his life logistics. Figure your sheez out like an adult, without laying that burden at someone else’s feet. He lied to the judge about his work situation and created a huge liability for the employer. That’s not someone I’d want handling my emergencies.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        He lied by omission after his split. He knowingly did something he knew was a huge safety violation and forbidden by his employer.
        He risked his child’s safety.

  58. Helewise*

    I’m kind of surprised that a judge ordered a custody arrangement that is fundamentally unworkable for one parent just because it seems like maintaining parental stability would be a pretty important goal to protect the well-being of the child – but I’ve never interacted with the family law system and know things don’t always work how they should.

    LW, I tend to agree that giving the employee as much runway as possible to find a solution or another job is a good and kind option. Completely changing the way the rest of the team functions isn’t fair to the other members of the team. You’d be well within your rights to fire him over this, but presumably he’s been a good employee up to this point or you wouldn’t be extending him this much latitude.

    1. Lana Kane*

      My first thought was that the discussion can include using that 2 month grace period to look for another job.

    2. Observer*

      I’m kind of surprised that a judge ordered a custody arrangement that is fundamentally unworkable for one parent just because it seems like maintaining parental stability would be a pretty important goal to protect the well-being of the child

      Yeah. But we don’t really know what the judge ordered, why and what information the court was given. Given the fact that this person chose to just try to fly under the radar it could be that he didn’t tell the judge about the problem for whatever reason.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      He may have skated over that he was on-call 1 week per month including evenings & nights, or said he’d change his schedule or job.
      Otherwise, it is likely that the custody agreement would have specified how he was to handle the on-call time.

    4. BigLawEx*

      Custody arrangements are generally not made around any particular job, IME (practiced family law for some years – many years ago).

      Some jobs, yes like a pilot. If I had to guess, the LW did not say he couldn’t care for the kid. If he had, a different arrangement would have been made – and would have probably resulted in him having less custodial time. For some parents, less time is an issue. For others, paying more support is something they try to avoid.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Sounds like he wasn’t thinking things through or just figured everything would be OK. The man is a parent who had been working on-call for a while; he should have brought this up during the custody arrangements. Taking the kid along or hoping not to be called out – that plan was never going to work well.

    5. Temperance*

      He wouldn’t be the first parent to push for 50/50 even though he can’t make it work.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        In a lot of places, 50-50 is the default. He wouldn’t have had to do anything. He should have, though; he should have requested that custody line up with his on call week.

  59. RagingADHD*

    What happens if forcing the coworkers to take on extra shifts for 2 months with very little advance notice screws up the custody / childcare arrangements they have already made?

  60. Azure Jane Lunatic*

    If there is an on-call incentive, would that amount potentially be enough to cover the cost of an all-night babysitter?

    1. Frankie*

      The problem isn’t even the cost, it’s the potential unpredictable late-night availability of anyone for hire for caregiving. That kind of doesn’t exist. Generally that’s the second person in a two-caregiver household.

  61. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    He would have had to state his job, but likely skated over that he was on-call 1 week per month including evenings & nights, or said he’d change his schedule.
    Otherwise, it is likely that the custody agreement would have specified how he was to handle the on-call time.

  62. Katherine*

    This isn’t LW’s problem to solve, but I had a friend in a similar situation and he solved it by getting a roommate who was willing to exchange some childcare for a reduction in rent.

  63. Jaybeetee*

    Ugh, it’s a trolley problem of a question, but it really comes down to three possible answers:

    1) The custody arrangement shifts to make the job work. That sounds like it wouldn’t be a simple process here – but bear in mind, some divorced parents do have travel jobs or remote location jobs or variable shift jobs, where custody works in different ways. It’s at least theoretically doable.

    2) He finds an overnight sitter for his on-call nights that are also his custody nights. Bearing in mind, if he’s not doing alternating-week custody, this would likely add up to 3-4 nights a month, and not 7 nights in a row. (I’ll be honest, I’m finding it a bit odd LW is framing it like that in the comments, given they also said he doesn’t have the kid 7 nights in a row.) This would mean effectively treating his on-call nights like night shifts and having the sitter there every time, proactively, not trying to call someone in at a random hour.

    3) The job changes (as in, he changes jobs, not that the company and work team all bend to accommodate him).

    So allll of the above is on Dad to figure out. If LW wants to give him a grace period to do so, that’s fine – but my concern, based on the comments, is that LW seems to be getting pretty far into the weeds of how to solve this problem for him, when it isn’t their place to do so (and gently – if you’re only hearing from him that his ex is “uncooperative”, you may very much not be getting the whole story on this).

    Advice for Dad: Treat the four nights a month your child is with you and you’re on-call as four night shifts a month, and plan accordingly.

    Advice for LW: Feel free to give him a grace period to let him resolve this, then let him resolve this. If the grace period ends and he hasn’t resolved this, you know what you’ll have to do.

  64. Joe*

    You should be paying on call pay,,, even if they arnt called,, lower his pay 10%, keep him on days, give the others that 10% raise on their on call weeks.

    1. KAZ2Y5*

      Hopefully they are paying on-call pay, but no. I have had call at various jobs before. My employer could not have paid me enough to make me willing to take more call over what I was originally scheduled.

  65. AABBCC123*

    Is there a reason this can’t be handled either informally or semi-formally among the team. (i.e. if a late night call comes out and he has the child; he calls the backup on-call person to handle it; or a supervisor, etc.). Isn’t this the same as the “hit by a bus” problem?

    What would happen if one of the other employees got called in and their car broke down? Why can’t that happen here, or is it happening *so* often it is unfeasable

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Not at all the same as being hit by a bus or illness, which is very ooccasional bad luck. This is a continuing issue he has, due to no longer being able to fulfill his essential job functions.

      It would mean one of his colleagues would always have to be on-call when he is, not like the usual emergency back-up. Totally unreasonable for them to have to do his on-call work.

    2. fidget spinner*

      No, that wouldn’t work at all, because the back-up “on call” person would still have to be “on call.” No drinking, no leaving town, etc.

    3. doreen*

      It’s really not – “hit by a bus” or a car breakdown are unpredictable events. It’s very predictable that this man will have custody whatever days he does. The unpredictable part is getting called out – it’s more like he lent his car to someone the week he’s on call than like his car broke down.

  66. Wem*

    Can something be changed to allow him to take his kid with him?

    I understand it may not be possible, but there are also situations where something could be figured out. (Depends on the age and behavior of the kid too, of course.)

    The on-call wheelchair repair guy had his (6ish?) kid with him last time. It was fine. More than fine, actually: I thought allowing it reflected well on the company.

    Of course, that’s going to be different for an on-call psychiatrist or for a repair on more dangerous equipment.

    I know you mention it’s not possible right now due to safety, but maybe something can be changed to create a safe kid space. Or maybe there’s not really a safety issue, just an employer’s fear of liability if the kid trips and falls or eats a bug or does anything else they’d also do at home.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      Considering the on-call in this case seems to include overnights, that might not be feasible. I’m not sure what time your wheelchair guy was with you, but the LW’s example was like 2am.

      This guy needs to find a different solution. Apart from the liability for the company, I’m picturing some kid getting hauled out of bed in the middle of the night on multiple occasions while Dad goes to work, and that’s no good for the kid either.

      1. Wem*

        Sunday morning around 9, though he absolutely would have come at 2.00 if it had been necessary. They run 24/7, as they should.

        While it’s obviously undesirable to get a kid out of bed in the middle of the night, if the nightly calls only happen once a month or so (the other calls being during more civilised hours) it’s also not that bad, relative to other consequences – e.g. the disruption of a mishmash of babysitters, poverty or having a stressed father due to job loss, etc.

        There’s not really an ideal solution, I think.

        1. GythaOgden*

          If you don’t work in maintenance, I’d kindly suggest you don’t try and advise on what can be done when. It’s a really nice thing to be trying to rejig this man’s life, but

          In any event, whether it’s 2am or 9am, kids are not allowed around maintenance situations for very good reason. There are enough hazards for adults around that a company is in no way obliged to let this guy bring a child onto the property.

        2. Observer*

          While it’s obviously undesirable to get a kid out of bed in the middle of the night,

          Neither the LW nor the court care about that. They DO care about the very real risk of serious danger to the child, and serious (possibly bankrupting) liability for the company.

    2. Observer*

      I know you mention it’s not possible right now due to safety, but maybe something can be changed to create a safe kid space. Or maybe there’s not really a safety issue, just an employer’s fear of liability if the kid trips and falls or eats a bug or does anything else they’d also do at home.

      Do you really think that the court would have given an emergency order if the only issue were some company being “over cautious” about liability? And, by the way, a company is *perfectly* in line to be worried about liability for the safety of people who don’t work for them – *especially* children, since the risk of something going wrong is higher.

      But beyond that, you clearly know nothing about maintenance, and apparently didn’t read the description of the job, or you would know that your “suggestion” makes no sense. The most obvious problem, which should have been clear even if you have absolutely no knowledge of the field, is that there is no “work space”. The techs work where the equipment or call is.

  67. Daniel*

    He totally missed the obvious solution (as did the responding manager):

    Create a 5th position for overnights, eliminate emergency on-call status for the original 4, problem solved, and now you can call yourself a job creator x5.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      The employer and the whole industry – as she says this sytem is common practice – would not have missed this “obvious solution”.

      The OP says callouts for the entire week are 0-5 total. So it would be far too expensive to create an extra job just for that.

    2. Orv*

      LW explained upthread that it’s not a cost-effective solution — the callouts aren’t frequent enough to justify paying an additional worker just for that shift.

    3. doreen*

      And it wouldn’t be just a 5th position – that can cover one shift a day five days a week. What about the rest of the time?

    4. GythaOgden*

      Facilities and maintenance here. Unfortunately, budgetary issues abound. Hiring on extra staff takes a lot of discussion about why you need an extra person (making a business case) and in the course of that discussion it’s going to be raised that you have enough personnel already and the extra callouts after hours are not going to be enough to justify the additional person.

      Hiring staff is expensive and I’d imagine that accounting would ask you why you’re not dealing with the actual situation — a child on the premises in a dangerous situation — before they look for money in what’s often a stretched budget already.

  68. Thomas*

    “it’s not exactly easy to find a babysitter at 3 am when you have to rush into work immediately”

    This is the wrong approach. I think OP needs to make it clear to the employee that when he is on call he cannot be caring for his child (or any other person who cannot be left alone). The same as he can’t do anything else that would interfere with his ability to meet the on call requirements. He needs to arrange childcare in advance, not be trying to find somebody AFTER the call comes in about a burst pipe at 3am!

    Tweaking the schedule might make it easier for the employee to meet that requirement, but he still needs to meet it.

    If this makes the job financially unviable for that employee (ie, cost of overnight childcare for one in every four weeks), then expect to lose him. A 2 month grace period is quite generous.

    1. tangerineRose*

      “OP needs to make it clear to the employee that when he is on call he cannot be caring for his child (or any other person who cannot be left alone)” This!

  69. Bruce*

    LW it sounds like you are doing your best and are being generous, but not optimistic this will work long term. Best of luck to him and to your team.

  70. Smaug*

    This is not a necessarily helpful comment, but I was this kid 30 years ago!

    My dad was a maintenance man and when I was too little to leave home alone, he would take me with him when he got an emergency page and either leave me in the maintenance office with a book or have me sit there and watch him do whatever he was doing depending on what it was. The other maintenance guys knew about it but they were all hiding it from management, if I remember correctly. They were really nice and sometimes brought me snacks.

    My dad never got in trouble for it as far as I know, and I’m actually really sad that this guy did get found out and is in this whole situation now. I hope it doesn’t mean he has to give up some amount of custody in order to have overnight childcare just to be available in case he gets a call, that really sucks. If my dad couldn’t do this, I would have seen him a fraction of the amount of my childhood that I actually did get to see him, and since he died when I was still pretty young that would have really changed my life for the worse. I get why the company wouldn’t want him doing it, but it’s also extremely not simple to solve (as evidenced by the whole letter and response).

    This is actually a pretty fond childhood memory for me, I learned so much about maintenance over that time that as an adult I am really handy and do a lot of DIY work on my house. It has also made me really good at knowing when contractors or repair people are being BS with me or not lol. I was always really close with my dad and stuff like this was part of why.

    If anyone thinks this is terrible and negligent please don’t argue it to me, my dad is not with us anymore and I would appreciate not having to litigate his parenting at this point.

    1. Bruce*

      Smaug, that is a very touching story and I’m glad you had those times with your dad.

    2. Whomst*

      Glad to see this side in the comments. It’s crazy to me how many people are completely and totally against this man having taken his kid to work. I get that it can be dangerous, and that’s why the company doesn’t want him to, but I don’t think it’s necessarily negligent. My childhood wasn’t as long ago as yours, and I have fond memories of spending time with my uncles on construction sites or going to work with my father in his laboratory. Just because something can be dangerous doesn’t mean we should never ever do it. (i.e. driving a car, cooking dinner, going on a hike, etc.)

      1. Temperance*

        We don’t know how old the child is, just that they can’t be left home alone because they’re too young.

        Waking a child up in the middle of the night is not great parenting. Sleep is a need, especially for little growing bodies. We don’t know anything about the quality of supervision he can provide while working alone to handle urgent problems, either.

      2. orsen*

        Why is it “crazy to you” that people are against having the child in LW’s workplace? The LW, their workplace, the child’s other parent, and the courts are also all against having the child in LW’s workplace, and unlike you, those entities are seeing this situation firsthand. Also, to your “just because something can be dangerous…” point, there are entirely reasonable limits to that. In this case, the LW’s employer, the child’s mother, and the court have designated that limit already.

      3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        We do things that are age-appropriate and legally allowed
        New laws on child safety – like safety for adults in the workplace – have been brought in after tragedies.

        1. Bruce*

          Oh I definitely think it is a bad idea for the worker to bring his under age child onto the site at 2 AM, but I also get that Smaug has fond memories. My late wife died suddenly years ago and I’m still talking to my sons about how they try to reconnect with their memories of her.

          1. orsen*

            I had taken Retired’s comment to be a response to Whomst, not Smaug. Smaug mostly just told their story, but it’s Whomst who’s pushing “Just ease up, everyone!”, saying stuff like driving, cooking, and hiking can be dangerous, and humans still do it…except that it would actually be unspeakably negligent to let a child (nevermind a child too young to leave at home) drive, cook, or hike unsupervised, so why bring it up? Basically every adult in this situation (except LW’s employee) has decided the LW’s workplace is no place for a child.

            Fact of the matter is that the employer deems the workplace too unsafe for a child, so encouraging LW’s employee to bring his child along is absolutely going to put his employment at risk, regardless of what you think about engaging in potentially dangerous activity.

      4. Rainy*

        My dad was a microbiologist and I occasionally got picked up from school and spent a couple of hours at the lab and rode home with him after.

        I spent my time in the break room, reading. He did not take me *into his laboratory* because it *was not safe* and was also *against public health guidelines*. And I am older than you, apparently by a good few years.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Same with my civil engineer dad. He’d take us into the site office on the way back from swimming on a Saturday morning, and occasionally drive us up to look at the construction site (on an important ring road around London) from a safe distance, but we were never allowed actually on site. The most danger we were ever in was getting highlighter ink somewhere we shouldn’t have.

          My dad did get into a bit of bother when, after a meal out, he drove us up towards the site to show it off to us. It was dark and there was security and police around, and they had to check my dad’s credentials before they were ok with him being there. But it was very definitely look, don’t touch, supervised appropriately and there was the perceived threat in my mind that if I did misbehave, I wouldn’t get to play with the highlighters at all, so that was something to be mindful of. But Dad wasn’t actually at work at all while there.

      5. Pickle Shoes*

        Survivor’s bias is a hell of a thing. I also have warm memories of sketchy stuff that happened because the adults around me were pretty negligent and I was just a kid who had no perspective.

        Not every kid gets lucky enough to live.

        1. Smaug*

          Oh yeah, I was definitely lucky to survive watching my dad take apart the p-traps under sinks and whatnot. I hope whatever is going on for you gets resolved and you are happier in the future.

  71. Morning Reading*

    When a friend had a similar situation (being on call sometimes) as a single parent, she got a roommate. Roommate did not generally do child care but she was an adult in the home so the child could be left sleeping. I think she gave roommate a break on rent. It’s not really the employer’s place to suggest it, but, it could be the easiest solution to find within the grace period.

  72. BigLawEx*

    I had three hours in the car today. (LA traffic). and the more I thought about this, the less sympathy I had for the father. He had a job for 2 years, but didn’t bargain for how he was going to handle a small child on on-call nights? I call into question his judgment. The LW is more generous than me. But I practiced family law many moons ago and see that he missed the opportunity to manage this, and has made everything more difficult than necessary.

    1. allathian*

      It worked fine for as long as he and his wife lived in the same household, not so much after the divorce. But I do think it’s unfortunate that he didn’t seemingly even attempt to get the judge to rule that the ex had custody for the whole week when he was on call.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        A judge probably wouldn’t formally require either party to fit in with the shift work of the other.
        It is a real imposition for the benefit of the ex – since he could get another job – not the child

      2. Jaydee*

        As a jaded lawyer who used to practice family law, there are a lot of people who prioritize things like not paying child support, sticking it to their ex, getting what they want, getting what’s “fair,” etc. over what is best for their children. Not saying that’s the case with this guy (or his ex) but it could be.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I’m ranging into the area of fanfic, but the vibe I get from this guy is that he’s not really proactive. Didn’t talk to OP about the problem ahead of time. Brought his kid along, and just hoped everything would be okay. Didn’t request that custody time line up with his on call weeks.

          I don’t think he’s overly malicious, just . . . passive. Used to all his problems working out somehow–usually due to the extra efforts of the people around him. Such as OP. Possibly his ex used to do that a lot, and got very tired of the role.

  73. Sadly, yes*

    The answer to your question is yes.

    There’s been a lot of discussion in the thread about how your cluents should upgrade their facilities so fewer call outs are needed.

    It’s been suggested that the business should magically find the money to employ people to work nights (and remember, it’s not one person: you would need a team to cover absences).

    None of those suggestions are realistic or even make sense.

    He can’t do the job. By all means give him a brief period to sort it out, but the longer you leave it the more resentful your non-problem employees are going to be.

  74. GythaOgden*

    I work in facilities and maintenance. This would be pretty bad because kids around equipment and tools and other stuff like that would be dangerous. Also, it’s a part of the job that he needs to be aware of because it’s SOP for maintenance that you’re on call. Particularly in my field, healthcare, stuff that needs immediate attention doesn’t just happen Monday to Friday 9 to 5. (If someone breaks into a ward with vulnerable patients on Saturday night, you don’t wait until Monday to fix the window. You get an emergency glazier out. This is possibly one job where the higher up in management you are, the more on-call you are over the weekend, because it’s you that has to authorise the call-out.) You know full well when you take a job like that that it will require different working hours to an office job and that you’ll be around heavy machinery. Whatever the socio-economic struggles he has outside work, whatever other stuff is going on in his life, he cannot bring a small child into that situation and must make other arrangements, period. It’s not fair on him, not fair on the child (who might wander off and get into seriously dangerous trouble; even a quiet, easily occupied child like myself cut a smile-shaped piece of wallpaper off the wall while my dad was working in a scenic area and we were living in a rental house for the summer; easily occupied can mean ‘autistic and curious about something that’s beyond normal and she’s so quiet you don’t notice until your living room looks like Arkham Asylum), it’s not fair on management who have to deal with the aftermath, and it’s not fair on his colleagues if he gets to shirk an important part of what he’s been employed for.

    We went through a presentation last week from our health and safety officer who discussed several accidents/near misses involving maintenance and looked at how they could have been avoided and how they were dealt with. One involved serious maiming of a naval officer after his superior ordered him to cut a restraint holding back a large piece of metal because they needed to set sail. One involved a build up of gas in a derelict outbuilding from vandalised pipes that could have gone up and taken out a maternity ward. One involved an injury that was exacerbated by management being neglectful of their employee’s concerns and making her so anxious her recovery was delayed. The presentation ended with a fingerwagging to us about not reporting incidents so management could keep track of problem areas. We had about a third of the numbers of other people in other areas, and we thought that was a win — but actually, the more observations that get made while they’re still observations, the fewer actual accidents happen, and the more you report the symptoms you see as an individual, the more you can measure a trend of problems and start to address the actual cause.

    If we don’t report an issue, even at the time we fix it, we don’t know whether that’s just a once-off random fluke or that particular piece of equipment is prone to failure. It’s not just cleaning up a random puddle on the floor; it’s finding out how many times there’s been a random puddle on the floor there so we can trace it back to a major leak elsewhere. If several different people are just cleaning the puddle up, the symptom is being attended to but the cause goes unnoticed. If we say to the H&S team, oh hey, I cleaned up a puddle on the floor, they can turn round and say to that place’s estates coordinator (junior manager), that’s the fifth time someone has reported a puddle on that floor. Can you send someone out to check for a leak?

    Even the best organisations acknowledge that you will never get anything 100% safe and work towards actively ferreting out/reporting problems so they can be dealt with at the source rather than just the symptoms. So it is a place for a trained and competent adult, not a child.

    He cannot bring the child with him full stop. I know you’re trying to be kind, and Alison’s advice might apply if it were an office based job, but if something were to happen, it would be a massive problem for the company/organisation and a safeguarding liability. I think y’all might be way too kind here, but if he needs a job with more typical hours and thus easier access to childcare, he needs to find one beyond the maintenance world.

  75. Karak*

    There are overnight babysitters. It’s not cheap, but Dad needs to either find an overnight daycare or find a sitter willing to crash at his place for a week.

    1. allathian*

      Nah, dad needs a new job or a new custody agreement with his ex that requires her to care for the kid when he’s on call.

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        I doubt if his ex would be required to mess up her life arrangements when he could just find a job with suitable hours.

        1. Betsy S*

          It’s not that easy. If you’ve risen to a certain level in a career where oncall is taken for granted, it can be very hard to find a job where it is not. Going from a professional trades job to entry-level may be an unsustainable drop in income.

          There are ways to make this work.

          1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

            No it’s not easy, but it’s his problem to solve, not that of his ex-wife, or his coworker or his employer. He needs to take responsibility.
            Most peeople have to rearrange their life after a divorce and accept a drop in income.

      2. NotYourMom*

        Nope. Dad needs to be responsible for his child during his parenting time. That includes sourcing and paying for childcare when he has a job that requires it.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Custody agreements aren’t cast in stone. He can go back and request an adjustment. The judge might ask why he didn’t bring it up the first time around, and he’d have to answer some very pointed questions. But it’s reasonable to ask for it.

  76. Regina*

    I am a pharmacist and worked on call for many years. We had a pharmacist who did not take call because “she did not have anyone to watch her son.” This bothered me because she was married and her husband did not travel for work. I thought it was unfair. It was one of the reasons I left that job.

    1. Coverage Associate*

      My co workers don’t know that my husband is disabled. I say he’s retired when it comes up, but don’t go into how it was an unexpected retirement for medical reasons. His disabilities don’t keep him from caring for children, but they do keep him from doing other household things that normal people would expect the retired spouse to handle if the other spouse is working full time, as I am.

  77. Allthesingleparents*

    LW – you have way too much sympathy for your employee’s situation. It’s enormously difficult trying to figure out how to do life and parenting as a single person when you are used to doing it as a married person. It’s tough that he’s in that situation. He needs to figure it out though. That is 100% on him. He just needs to know what the non-negotiables are (e.g. can’t leave kid at home or take them to on-call jobs) and figure out how to meet those. It’s not your job to figure that out for him. There are only 2 options for on call weeks – don’t have the child, or have another person in the house who can look after the child if he gets called out. Period. He needs to decide what that looks like – e.g. having neighbour/friend/grandma/sitter on call to come over if he gets called out, or someone nearby he can drop the child off to on way to the job, or he and child stay with grandma/cousin Bob/friend Gary every on call week he has the child, and then he can just go if he gets called out. There are many options and only your employee will know what will work in his situation. You’ve given him 2 months to figure that out, which is perfectly reasonable. I hope this works out for both of you – would love an update. As a single parent I very much appreciate how tough it can be (but also, that you just need to figure it out on your own).

  78. E*

    I used to work as a babysitter for a family with one parent who had an on-call schedule, and another who was a freelancer in an industry with nighttime/traveling work. We worked out an agreement where they paid me a nominal on-call rate, I slept with my phone near me, and they could call if they needed me to come over if someone needed emergency surgery when the other parent wasn’t available – at which time, they’d pay me my full rate.

    It wasn’t my only source of income, but babysitting for them regularly was a big part of balancing my finances at the time (I was also freelancing then). It sounds to me like the employee needs to think outside the box a little more here.

  79. You Can't Pronounce It*

    How is his custody set up? Is it every other week? If so, can you ensure he is scheduled a week he doesn’t have custody?

  80. Lily Potter*

    Yes, you do have to fire him if he’s not showing up for work when he’s supposed to show up for work. The childcare situation is unfortunate but it’s not something an employer needs to solve for an employee. Giving the employee a few weeks to figure out a new situation would be a kindness but if he figures it something and manages to keep the job, be sure to give him extra on-call shifts for a while. This employee’s co-workers will have been covering for him while he gets his life in order, and deserve a break from on-call for a while in return.

    Unless this is a hard-to-fill position and you’re desperate to keep this individual, I highly doubt your company is going to go for “premium pay” to get the other three in the group willing to go on-call more often.

  81. Sharon*

    People responsible for children need to arrange childcare for times when they are expected to be working. The person seems to have advance notice of the on-call schedule, so this isn’t any different from any other work situation. The problem seems to be that the employee is arranging their life on the assumption that they won’t have to work during the on-call times, and then when they do get called in, they scramble.

  82. NotYourMom*

    You may in fact need to fire him over this, yes. You can certainly try to work with him and around the issue. But this was a known requirement when he was hired and it is his job as a parent to figure out childcare when he is working.

    I feel quite badly for the child in this situation, but dad needs to be the person coordinating change. He can either search for a childcare solution, approach mom about a custody change, or present a solution to his boss and fellow employees. Short of that he seems to be just letting his problem become everyone elses without accountability.

  83. Veryanon*

    I feel badly for this employee and the manager. But from a business perspective, if the employee can’t meet an essential job requirement (which it sounds like this is) for a reason that’s not medical in nature, it’s not doing the rest of the team any favors by trying to work around him. The employee accepted the job knowing this was a requirement. He didn’t put any planning into how he would address the childcare issue. If I were the manager, out of simple humanity, I might ask him if he’s explored his options regarding custody changes or having a friend/relative/the other parent help out with childcare during his on-call weeks, but it’s ultimately not the manager’s problem to solve.

  84. Betsy S*

    I worked various sorts of on-call rotations for 30 years – so I have a lot of experience with schedules – although most of my on-calls did not require being on-site.

    My first thought : on-call rotations should always have a backup on-call person. ALWAYS.

    If calls are not frequent, he may be able to work out a deal where in exchange for having the backup cover a call when he can’t do it, he will take primary for that person’s next week (on the 3 or 4 nights when he can do it). So in exchange for one night worked, he covers 3 or 4 nights primary (when he may or may not get a call). Or, he covers for that person the next time they DO get a call on a night when he’s free. Or maybe he takes way more secondary days.

    Once you’ve gotten yourself into a career position that requires oncall, it can be very hard to shift gears. I had my first job with no on-call for 9 years, so by the time I realized that oncall was the norm, I was committed.

    My second job offered a $200 stipend for what was a very intense on-call week (my worst week was 120 calls! I think my best weeks were 30-40. ) Backup oncall was also paid and also took responsibility for the ticket queue that week, so they kept busy, plus with that many calls and 15-minute response time, backup always got some calls too. One guy was expecting a baby and had the idea of working lots of oncall to make extra $$$. He nearly collapsed from exhaustion. (which was, I suppose, good practice for having a baby, but he coulda used the sleep)

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      His coworkers want to keep the current system, not be his backup i.e. basically be on-call too on the weeks he is supposed to be.

      His employer can find other people to replace him who would work within the current rotation system, just as he did before his divorce.

      They do have an emergency backup, probably the supervisor, but that is intended for very occasional circumstances such as being hit by a bus, not a regular problem for the week he is on-call.

  85. DJ*

    Like your suggestion his ex take the child the week he’s on call at work. Seeing she was the one that took him to court and dobbed him in I don’t think that’s too much of an ask!
    Or the employer schedule him on when he doesn’t have the child!

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      “dob him in” is just another way of saying “tattling” and does not belong in the adult world.

      It’s not just justified but an actual requirement of being a good parent to prevent your child from being taken somewhere unsafe, or being left alone in the home at night, also unsafe and potentially scary.

      The employee repeatedly put his child in danger and it is up to him to fulfil his responsibilities as a parent, which very probably means getting a job without on-call responsibilites.

      His ex, his coworkers and his employer should not have to twist themselves around so that he can keep a job to which he is no longer suited

  86. Coverage Associate*

    Thanks, everyone. I have learned a lot. These call schedules are not what I am used to from working with MD specialists.

    My one suggestion is that it seems common, at least the courts hhave boilerplate for it, for a custody agreement that requires that the non custodial parent that day be offered to get to take the child if the custodial parent that day needs childcare over x hours. It means a parent, rather than a babysitter, is with the child for situations like this.

    It may not work for a lot of reasons, I know, but I have had co workers who liked having this provision in the custody agreement.

  87. Head sheep counter*

    Is it more effective to replace one employee or the whole team and keep the one employee who is exposing you to significant liability? That’s what this boils down to. Your sympathy for one means all the others pick-up slack and learn that there’s no accountability for bringing significant liability to the job. In picking up the slack – they have options. They can go where they don’t need to pick up the slack for the bosses apparent favorite employee.

  88. Doc McCracken*

    I’m a parent and business owner. Give the guy a set amount of time to figure out a solution and if he can’t then it just won’t work. I’m sympathetic to a hard situation, but this guy strikes me as someone who is not proactively trying to solve the situation. You cannot care about an employee’s job more than they do.

  89. Pickle Shoes*

    I hate it, but if he’s been a solid employee until now, the most reasonable option is to give him a chance to find a solution and let him go if he can’t.

    Trying to fundamentally change the arrangement for everyone in order to make up for this one guy’s circumstances changing doesn’t feel right and ignores that this job has specific requirements they all knew about and agreed to. The agreement now gets to be changed for all of them because one person can no longer meet the requirements?

    Offering incentives for the others to cover his on call time is a nice thought, but has problems on its own. What if they all say no? Even if they all agree, people get used to having some extras and it’ll be a mess to undo it later when he’s replaced or his circumstances change again and he’s available as originally intended. Even uglier if someone with incentives is replaced and then you have someone starting with a perk that might be taken away at an unknown later date.

  90. judyjudyjudy*

    I concur with Pickle Shoes above. Sometimes the situation is difficult but there may not be much you can do as the employer beyond granting some short-term grace while the employee makes appropriate arrangements.

    Ok, so a personal story. When I was 9, my dad died, and my mom became a single parent. At the time, she worked as an aerospace engineer and loved her job, which was challenging, time-demanding, and had a long commute. When my dad was alive, she would leave for work at 5:30 am so that she could leave in time to pick me up from school, while my dad would go to work later in the morning so he could drop me off at school.

    When she was widowed, she did not have family nearby that she could trust to take care of me, so staying in her career path meant having a nanny, which was financially feasible but still pricey. More important to her, she realized that staying in her career meant she would never
    spend much time with me on weekdays. She ultimately decided to quit a lucrative job she lived to go back to school in mid-40s to become a public school teacher because our schedules were better aligned. She was really passionate about her second career too, and was really active in teacher union activities…but the impetus for changing her career was a huge, tragic change in family circumstances.

    Now, my mom’s situation and the LW’s situation are very different. My mom had the benefit of money (savings and life insurance from my dad) that let her make this change, and that might not at all be the case for this employee. But she also had to be the one to do everything with raising me, because her co-parent was gone.

    I guess what I’m saying is that it’s great that LW can offer some grace and help, but ultimately it is not the LW’s responsibility to figure out the child care situation for this employee.

    Best of luck to everyone!

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