September 20, 2018

Employees are allowed to take time off to deal with an emergency situation involving a dependant. A dependant is someone who relies on your employee to care for them.

This could be:

  • A spouse;
  • A partner;
  • A child;
  • Grandchild;
  • Parent;
  • Someone who relies on that person for care.

What’s an emergency situation?

  • Injury, illness or assault;
  • Having a baby;
    • If a dependant goes into labour/hospital unexpectedly, and they rely on your employee to take them to hospital. A person cannot take time off after the baby is born unless it is an emergency situation.
  • Disruption of care arrangements;
    • This could be where a childminder is suddenly unavailable, or a nursery or nursing home is unexpectedly closed
  • A child involved in an incident at school;
    • Whether it be their child is injured at school, in a fight or suspended, these would all be classed as an emergency.

Situations that would not be classed as an emergency would be:

  • Planned medical appointments;
  • The illness or injury of a pet;
  • Personal crises, such as the breakdown of a relationship.

How much time off can an employee take?

There is no set limit on how much time an employee can take to look after a dependent in an emergency situation; it is very much dependant on the circumstances of the situation. An employee should let you know as soon as it is reasonable to do so how much time they anticipate they will take so you can agree. Employees are not entitled to take time off if they were aware of the situation beforehand, such as a pre-booked medical appointment.

Time off to look after dependants is designed for genuine, unforeseen, emergency situations only. Employees cannot take off long periods of time to look after a dependent.

Are employees paid for the time off?

There is no legal right to be paid for time off for looking after dependants. However, some companies may provide for payment in their terms and conditions in the employee’s contract. It is best practice to always refer to the individual’s contract to determine whether or not they should be paid.

What to do as an employer

You cannot:

  • Treat an employee unfairly for taking time off to look after a dependant;
  • Dismiss an employee or consider them for redundancy based on the fact they have taken time off;
  • Refuse to give an employee reasonable time off.

If you have any reason to doubt the genuineness of the request for time off to look after a dependant, this would be considered misconduct, therefore the correct disciplinary procedure should be followed.

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About the author 

James Rowland

James is the Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners and regularly writes articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law. Outside of the office, James is a keen Cricketer, playing in the Cheshire League for Nantwich CC. He also loves going to watch his football team, Crewe Alexandra. Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn.

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