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Time off for Dependants

This employment guide sets out your options if an employee requests time off to deal with an emergency.


If you run a business you will frequently be faced with the problem of one of your employees ringing in to say he or she will be late arriving at work, not arriving at all or asking to leave work early due to an emergency.

What should you do? And how do you deal with the situation where the same employee keeps making similar requests?

Emergency Dependant Leave

Dealing with the issues

There is a legal right for employees to be given leave in emergencies. However, there are specific rules surrounding when such leave should be granted.

The legal right to time off only relates to emergencies relating to ‘dependants’. These include obvious relationships such as a spouse, partner, child, grandchild and parent but can also include someone who depends on an individual for care, for example an elderly neighbour.

Time off for dependants does not cover every situation where any employee requests time off to deal with a personal or family issue.  It only covers ‘unforeseen matters’ and ‘emergency situations’.

It is generally for situations which are unplanned or which need immediate attention such as:

  • Dealing with a breakdown in childcare.
  • Putting longer term care plans in place for children or elderly relatives.
  • Dealing with issues relating to a dependant falling ill or being taken into hospital.
  • The need to arrange or attend a funeral.

It does not cover situations such as burst pipes, sick pets, staying in to have the meter read, etc.

Employees are entitled to a ‘reasonable’ time off to deal with dependant-related emergencies. You will need judge each case on its specific circumstances.

The guidelines state that one or two days should be sufficient in order to make longer term arrangements.

There are no limits to the number of times an employee can use this right. However, the employee must tell you as soon as possible the reason for the absence and how long he or she expects to be absent.

There is no legal right to be paid during such absence. However, some employers may offer a contractual right to pay under the terms and conditions of employment.

Getting it right

Managing absence issues related to dependants can prove difficult, particularly if the same employee repeatedly requests time off to deal with emergencies. This can prove to be a source of resentment from other members of staff.  It can be difficult for you to decide if the request falls within an employee’s statutory right for time off.

HR:4UK can help you by providing advice on the merits and legal basis of such requests. We can help to ensure that you have an appropriate policy in place to avoid the risk of receiving ‘grievances’ from your staff in cases where you refuse requests.

For further help and advice, speak to one of our advisors by calling 01455 444222 or complete our online enquiry click here and an advisor will contact you shortly.