Can my employees have time off for a family emergency?

by Nadine De Souza

What happens if your employee suddenly has an emergency at home? Their child is sick or their wife has an accident. We answer your questions regarding your rights as an employer when this situation arises.

Are my staff allowed to have time off from work for a family emergency?

Yes. All your employees can take a reasonable amount of time off to deal with incidents involving a dependant.

Dependants are defined as your employee’s parent, wife, husband or partner, child, grandchild or someone who relies on your employee for care.

Your employee can take time off:

  • To help when a dependant is ill or injured
  • To cope when the arrangements for caring for a dependant unexpectedly break down
  • When a dependant gives birth
  • When a dependant dies
  • To deal with an unexpected incident involving a dependant child during school hours or on a school trip.

How much time can my employees take off?

There is no maximum amount of time which can be taken. However, usually one or two days is considered enough to deal with the immediate issues and to sort out longer-term arrangements, if necessary. 

After that you can ask your employee to take annual leave or parental leave to deal with their problem. 

If your employee knows about the situation beforehand, then they cannot have time off under these rules. So if your employee takes time off because their child has a hospital appointment, then they won’t be covered.

Do I have to continue to pay them?

You may decide to pay your employee for their time off, but you don’t have to. 

If you're going to make any rules about this, then you can put it in your employee’s employment contract, staff handbook or intranet.

Can I refuse my employee's request to have time off?

If you refuse your employee reasonable time off, then your employee can take you to an employment tribunal and the tribunal may award them compensation.

Help from Lawpack

If you want more in-depth information – from an employment lawyer – about all aspects of employment law, then read our guide Employment Law Made Easy. Packed with tips and expert advice on complying with employment legislation.

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Published on: April 30, 2014

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