NEW YORK – Boss, my daughter has a soccer game on Thursday, so can I leave early?

With the start of the school year, small business owners will be getting requests from working parents who want time off to attend children’s soccer and basketball games and other school events. Not just once, but many times throughout the year.

Owners who want to keep morale up will say OK. But they should also give non-parents the opportunity to leave early for personal reasons.

WHY YOU SHOULD GIVE TIME OFF

For Dave Reeves, “there’s nothing more important than family. Work, your career, comes next.” So at his company, there’s no question that his four employees should take time off for school or family events.

Reeves, president of Reeves Laverdure Public Relations in Boca Raton, Fla., believes that helping staffers take care of their lives will only benefit the business. “If things aren’t good at home, they can’t be good at the office,” he said.

Allowing employees to tend to their children or other personal matters will also help a small business retain good workers. It can also be a good recruiting tool.

“With that loss of a little bit of time, you gain a lot of good will,” said Rick Gibbs, a senior human resources specialist with Administaff, a Houston-based company that provides HR outsourcing.

BEING FAIR

There can be friction and resentment in companies where parents get time off for sporting and school events, but non-parents feel they can’t get the time for things that matter to them. It’s important for an owner not to make judgments, for example, saying that child-related requests are reasonable and understandable, but requests from childless workers aren’t.

It can also work the other way. Owners who don’t have children might not understand that it really is important for a parent to see all three performances of the play that a child is in. Or that an employee might have to take several days off because a child has the flu.

GETTING THE WORK DONE

Business owners who are flexible about time off usually find that staffers will get their work done because they appreciate being given the chance to take care of what’s important in their lives. Employees will be willing to stay late on other days or catch up with work at home.

Owners who are worried about employees abusing the privilege shouldn’t use that as a reason not to give time off.

Hiring responsible workers in the first place should head off any problems.