Time off for dependants: advice for employers

From the first day of employment all employees have the right to time off to care for a dependant. Under s57a and s57b of the Employment Rights Act, all employees are entitled to a “reasonable” amount of unpaid leave. However, what is deemed as reasonable can be fact specific.

Who is a dependant?
A dependant is someone who relies on the employee for care, which can vary from a spouse, partner, child, parent or someone who depends on the employee, for example an elderly neighbour.

When can time off be taken?
• When a dependant falls ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted;
• To make care arrangements for a dependant who has fallen ill or is injured;
• In consequence of the death of a dependant;
• To deal with an incident that concerns a child of the employee whilst in care of an educational establishment.

How much time off can an employee take?
An employee will be entitled to a reasonable amount of time off to deal with the emergency, but there is no set amount of time as it depends on the situation.
For example, if a dependant falls ill, an employee can take time off to take that child to the doctors and make care arrangements. An employer may then ask the employee to take parental or annual leave if they wished to stay off with the child for longer.

Does the employee have to give notice?
The employee does not need to give notice; however, they should provide the employer with a reason for the absence as early as possible and when they anticipate their return to work.

Should the employee be paid for this time off?
No, an employer does not have a statutory obligation to pay employees for time off to care for dependants.

An employer must not:
• Treat employees unfairly for taking time off, for example refusing them training or promotion;
• Dismiss an employee or choose them for redundancy because they asked for time off for a dependant;
• Refuse an employee reasonable time off.

How can Employment Law Services (ELS) help?
If you are an employer who requires assistance with any of the issues raised in this blog contact us today for your free consultation 0370 218 5662.