All employees have the right to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant.
A dependant is a spouse, partner, child or parent, or a person who lives with the employee. It does not include tenants, lodgers or boarders living in the family home or an employee who lives in the household such as a housekeeper. A dependant could also be someone else who reasonably relies on the employee for care, eg an elderly neighbour.
Employees can take leave when a dependant:
- falls ill, or is injured or assaulted - including mental illness or injury, eg emotional distress
- goes into labour
They can also take leave when they need to:
- make longer-term care arrangements for a dependant who is ill or injured
- arrange or attend a dependant's funeral
- deal with an unexpected problem in care arrangements, eg if a childminder is unexpectedly unavailable
- deal with an incident involving the employee's child during school hours, eg suspension from school
How much time off can an employee take?
The right is to reasonable time off. This amount of time isn't fixed - it should simply allow the employee to deal with the immediate problem and put any other necessary care arrangements in place.
For example, an employee would not normally be able to take two weeks off to care for a sick child, but they could take one or two days to take the child to the doctor and arrange for someone else to look after him or her.
Emergency time off and protection against detriment or dismissal
You must not:
- subject an employee to detrimental treatment for taking emergency time off
- dismiss an employee - or select them for redundancy - because they took, or sought to take, emergency leave
If an employee believes that you have treated them unfairly or dismissed them in these circumstances, they may take a claim of detrimental treatment or unfair dismissal to an industrial tribunal - regardless of their length of service.