Time off for dependants: A Guide
Time off for a dependants (.rtf)
The new right to take time off for dependants came into effect on 15 December 1999. The right to time off is contained in Section S7A of the Employment Rights Act 1996, as amended by the Employment Relations Act 1999.
What is time off for dependants?
This is a right allowing employees to take a reasonable amount of time off work to deal with certain unexpected or sudden emergencies and to make any necessary longer term arrangements.
Who counts as a dependant?
A dependant is the partner, child or parent of the employee, or someone who lives with the employee as part of their family. For example, this could be an elderly aunt or grandparent who lives in the household. It does not include tenants or boarders living in the family home, or someone who lives in the household as an employee, for example, a live-in housekeeper.
In cases of illness, injury or where care arrangements break down, a dependant may also be someone who reasonably relies on the employee for assistance. This may be where the employee is the primary carer or is the only person who can help in an emergency. For example, a parent or grandparent who lives elsewhere but who relies on a person for assistance when problems arise.
Under what circumstances can an employee take time off?
The new right enables employees to deal with an unexpected or sudden problem and make any necessary longer term arrangements, for example:
- if a dependant falls ill or has been involved in an accident or assaulted, including where the victim is hurt or distressed rather than injured physically;
- to make longer term care arrangements for a dependant who is ill or injured;
- to deal with the death of a dependant; for example, to make funeral arrangements or to attend a funeral;
- to deal with an unexpected disruption or breakdown in care arrangements for a dependant; for example, when the childminder or nurse fails to turn up;
- to deal with an incident involving the employees child during school hours; for example, if the child has been involved in a fight or is being suspended from school.
How much time off must be allowed?
There is not a set limit to the amount of time off which can be taken. In most cases, the amount of leave will be one or two days at the most, but this will depend on individual circumstances, although an employee may be able to take a longer period of leave under other arrangements with the employer. For example, if a child falls ill, the leave should be enough to help the employee cope with the crisis - to deal with the immediate care of the child, visiting the doctor if necessary, and to make longer term care arrangements. It does not mean that the employee may take two weeks leave to look after a sick child.
Is the time off with pay?
The right does not include a statutory right to pay. There may, however, be some circumstances when a member of staff will be entitled to paid leave to deal with sudden or unexpected family/dependant problems. In cases of serious urgent domestic distress, requests should be made to the Head of School Department/Section who will consult with the link HR Officer and consider such requests via the Discretionary Leave Guidelines (see HR website).
How much notice do members of staff need to give the University?
If you need time off to care for a dependant/s you should inform your Head of School/Department/ Section as soon as possible - you should give details of your absence, the reason for it and how long you expect to be absent from work. A member of staff should make every effort to inform his/her Head of School/Department/Section ( or another responsible person) if absence from work is required. A message via telephone, fax or email will be sufficient if a person is facing an urgent/crisis situation and time-off work is needed at very short notice. It is acknowledged however that there may be a rare occasion when a member of staff is unable to contact his/her School/Department/Section or another appropriate person. In such circumstances the person should, at the earliest opportunity, inform his/ her School/Department/Section of the reason for absence from work. A Head of School/Department/Section may wish to discuss the absence with the individual upon that person's return to work.
What if you are unreasonably refused time off?
If a member of staff believes that he/she has been unreasonably refused time off, then the person should contact the HR Office and the link HR Officer will seek to investigate and resolve the situation.
What happens if a member of staff needs longer time off, or knows in advance that the problem is going to arise?
The new right is intended to cover unforeseen matters. If a member of staff knows in advance that he/she is going to need time off, it may be possible to arrange a longer period of unpaid leave or a combination of unpaid leave and annual leave. If the reason a member of staff needs leave relates to his/her child, he or she may be entitled to take parental leave. (see further information available from the HR Office).
If you have any queries relating to the above, then please do not hesitate to contact Alan Charnock.
Deputy Director of HR
January 2010 (v2)