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Time Off for Dependants

Time Off for Dependants Overview

Employees have a statutory right to take emergency unpaid time off work to deal with certain unexpected or sudden emergencies concerning a dependant and to make any necessary longer-term arrangements. 

This right applies to employees only and not to agency workers or those who are self-employed.

Employees do not have to complete a qualifying period of employment in order to be able to take time off in an emergency.  They are entitled to this right from day one of starting their job.

This factsheet provides a brief explanation of these rights. For further details, see Time off for Dependants Factsheet [FS18.02].

The Right

The right is to take unpaid time off to deal with an emergency relating to a dependant. This covers situations such as:

  • Providing assistance or making arrangements for the provision of longer-term care if a dependant falls ill, is injured or assaulted, or gives birth.
  • Dealing with the consequences of the death of a dependant e.g. dealing with funeral arrangements and attending the funeral.
  • Dealing with the consequences of a child being involved in an unexpected incident at school or during school hours.
  • Where child care, or other arrangements for the care of a dependant, unexpectedly break down.

A ‘dependant’ means a spouse, civil partner, child, parent or a person living in the employee’s household as part of the family. 

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.

Amount of time off

There is no set limit to the amount of time off which can be taken – the right to time off is such as is necessary to deal with the emergency.  However, the right is to take time off to deal with the immediate emergency and to put alternative arrangements in place, not for example, to take time off to care for a sick dependant over a longer period of time.

The right only applies if the employee tells their employer the reason for their absence as soon as reasonably practicable and how long they expect to be absent. 

Fora template form for employees to complete on their return to work, see Self-Certification Form [TP18.01].

Protection from detriment and dismissal

An employee may complain to an Employment Tribunal where their employer has failed to permit them to take time off as required above.  Employees also have the right not to be subjected to any detriment for reasons relating to time off for dependants and any dismissal on these grounds is automatically unfair, regardless of the length of the employee’s employment. 

These rights apply regardless of the employee’s length of service.

This document has been created by, or on behalf of ESP Ltd, as a general document and as a guide in relation to its subject matter and has not been bespoke drafted for you or the specific circumstances in which you are looking to use it. Prior to using this document and undertaking any HR process you must consult your organisation’s own policies and procedures to ensure that you do not do anything in conflict with your own policies and procedures.  If in any doubt as to how to use this document or, if you require any legal advice, please feel free to contact ESP Ltd on 0333 006 2929 and our legal team will be more than happy to assist.  ESP Ltd will not be liable in any way for any actions undertaken by you or your use of this document unless we have been consulted regarding your use of this document as legal advisor to your business or have bespoke drafted any documentation in response to a specific support request.

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