Parent of children with epilepsy highlights importance of having an understanding employer

May 23, 2013

Kelly Cvijanovich recalls one year how she had used up all her sick days to be with her two sons who are both living with epilepsy — and it was only August. She knew she would need more days off. Her employer’s response? Don’t worry about it; take the time off you need.

It’s this type of supportive environment that’s essential to cushion the impact of the challenges that come from having children with seizure disorders, says Cvijanovich.

Dylan and Cameron Cvijanovich
Dylan and Cameron Cvijanovich

Being the parent of young children with epilepsy presents many challenges, and given the amount of time parents often need to take off work to be with their children during medical emergencies, it’s crucial to have an understanding employer, she says.

In this respect, Cvijanovich finds herself fortunate.

Cvijanovich has worked 15 years for Scotiabank. Since the time her sons, Dylan, 7, and Cameron, 3, were diagnosed, the organization has been supportive, she says.

Cvijanovich, a manager at the bank’s head office in Toronto, says communicating her challenges to her employer wasn’t easy, but once she made the move to explain the issues that come with having children who are living with epilepsy her bosses were understanding.

“Right from the onset, they were behind me 100 per cent,” she says. “We had a lot of hospitalizations our first year, and by the time I was out of sick days, my boss said, ‘This is not even something to think about right now.’ ”

Scotiabank also recognized Cvijanovich as a valuable employee. When she sat down with her manager to go over the hours, it was realized that Cvijanovich took lots of work home with her, which was counted as days worked. They also allowed her to borrow sick days from the next year.

As a result of Scotiabank’s support, everything worked out, Cvijanovich says.

But there was one more issue. Cvijanovich lives in Hamilton and works in downtown Toronto. She was becoming increasingly concerned about being so far away from Dylan and Cameron every day. Given the choice between her children and her job, Dylan and Cameron had to come first.

Again, Scotiabank understood that Cvijanovich’s children had to be top priority, so other arrangements were made.

“They said, ‘We don’t want to lose you, so we’re going to create an alternate work arrangement,’ ” Cvijanovich.

The “alternate work arrangement” meant Cvijanovich could work from home two to three days per week during the time her children needed increased medical attention. She still has the flexibility to do this when needed.

Epilepsy Ontario executive director Rozalyn Werner-Arcé is applauding Scotiabank and other employers who help ease the challenges parents of children living with epilepsy face.

“No one should have to choose between their children and their job,” she says. “When employers are willing to accommodate employees who have children living with epilepsy, like the way Scotiabank has for Kelly, it sets a wonderful example for others.”

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