Imagine getting paid days off work to go to your kids' school assemblies.

My five-year-old son was performing at his school’s talent quest last year. He was getting up and telling jokes, to an audience of hundreds. Unfortunately, I had a work commitment that day, and I didn’t feel I could say to my boss, “Hey, I actually want to go to my son’s school and watch him tell jokes instead.”

It’s just one of those sacrifices you make as a working parent. So much goes on inside school hours – sports days, open days, presentations. If you’re your own boss, or you’re in a particularly family-friendly workplace, you might be okay. But otherwise, it’s hard to justify prioritising school activities over work, except on very important occasions. You miss stuff. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking.

Well, imagine you were expected to take off three days a year to go along to things at your kid’s school. To accompany them on school excursions, or to help out in the classroom, or, maybe, to watch them get up and tell jokes at their talent quest. Imagine those three days were a legal right, and they were paid.

Class concert. Who's in the audience?

That's the basis of a bill that's just been introduced in California. In that state, parents, grandparents and guardians already have the right to take off five days a year - unpaid - for school activities and school-related emergencies. But making three days of it paid would see a lot more parents using it.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto says children whose parents are involved at school get better marks and are less likely to get in trouble.

"Being involved in your child’s education shouldn’t be limited by your family’s income, and it shouldn’t come down to a choice between meeting with a teacher or volunteering in the classroom, versus paying the bills," Gatto says. "We must stop passively bemoaning the state of our schools, and do something to engage families in the educational process and the school community."


As well, most kids - especially the little ones - absolutely love it when their parents turn up to school.

Most kids love it when their parents turn up during the day.

Research in the US has shown that less than a quarter of parents earning under $30,000 a year describe themselves as "very involved" in their children's education. They can't spare the time and they have work commitments.

Paying parents for the days off is important, especially for low-income families. But what's also important is making school involvement a right and an expectation.

Often, workers who have kids don't want to make a big deal about it. They don't want to be seen as less committed to their job than their child-free co-workers.

But how good would it feel if all workplaces acknowledged that parents do have extra responsibilities? How good would it feel, as a parent, to be encouraged - and paid - to take time off work for school?

The fact is, if you work outside the home and you have kids, you're doing two jobs. There's the one you're paid for and the other one - the voluntary one, which involves raising the next generation of citizens. Do that one well, and everyone will end up better off.

Sure, it's not a law quite yet, and it's only California. But this is the kind of family-friendly thinking that would make it easier to strike that happy work-life balance.

Would you appreciate having paid days off to go to your kid's school?