Allowing time off work

Time off work for personal commitments and emergencies


All employees are entitled to reasonable unpaid time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant. It can be paid if their employment contract says so, and they will not have to make the time up later on, typically in these arrangements.

A dependant normally means a partner, children, or close family members, but could also mean someone else, such as a frail neighbour who is looked after by an employee.

For more information, see parental leave and time off for dependants.

Leave for other reasons

Workers may want time off for personal reasons, eg to:

  • move house
  • attend a wedding
  • when someone gets ill or injured
  • carry out house renovations
  • attend a religious ceremony/event
  • deal with a family problem, eg a divorce
  • attend a doctor's or dentist's appointment
  • attend the funeral of a friend or non-dependant relative

There is no statutory right to this time off. You should have a written policy to cover these situations or you could agree to a period of unpaid leave. Alternatively, you could suggest that the employee use any holiday entitlement they may have.

Read more on the advantages of managing your staff's time off work.

Extended leave/career breaks

If you wish to allow employees to take extended leave or career breaks you should have a policy in place for extended leave/career breaks, eg where an employee wants a year away from work to get a qualification or spend time with their family.

The policy should cover:

  • how long the leave can last
  • how the leave can be used
  • how you will continue to communicate with the employee
  • whether you can guarantee they will return to the same job
  • what happens if a redundancy situation arises while they are away
  • whether or not the time away will count towards their continuous employment or break the continuity of employment
  • the application procedure, including the amount of notice the employee must give and how to appeal if you reject the request
  • notice that is required advising of a return to work

You should also be aware that an employee may make a request for a career break as part of a statutory request for flexible working. See flexible working: the law and best practice.