With three children in preschool, branding manager Jeremy Cothman was prepared for colds, bugs or Covid-19 to affect his family at some point over the winter. But the run-up to Christmas was even worse than he expected.
“We had a rotating carousel of sick kids who had either fever or norovirus,” says the 42-year-old, who works for a recruitment tech company in Stockholm. “The illness eventually culminated in night-time vomiting and early trips to our building’s laundry facilities to wash clothes and linens.”
However, some of the pressure on his family was eased thanks to a policy called Vård av Barn (usually shortened to ‘VAB’). It loosely translates to “care of child”, and gives parents the right to take paid time off to look after their children if they get sick. This means that Swedish parents, unlike many around the world, don’t have to scramble to find relatives or friends to help, take holiday or unpaid leave or simply try and carry on working from home while their children are ill.
“It’s a huge safety net,” says Cothman, who’s originally from the US. He and his wife, a chief marketing officer, took nine VAB days between them during their children’s latest sickness spell. “We have no other family support whatsoever in Sweden, [so] we have a hard time dealing with shocks to our family system. Without VAB there’s no way we would both be able to manage career, family life and our own mental health simultaneously.”