For times where employees need to take time off unexpectedly to support a dependent (someone who relies on the employee, such as a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, or person living in the employee's house as part of their family) where an emergency has arisen, they could be entitled to a reasonable amount of time off work.
What counts as an emergency?
The government has a helpful list of examples. They include accidents, having a baby early, suspension of a child from school and unexpected disruption to care arrangements (including nursery arrangements).
Notice of the time off - what must the employee give you?
Employees should give as much notice to their employer as possible, but there's no minimum notice required. They're entitled to take this leave regardless of how long they've been employed.
The notice does not need to be in writing and the employee does not need to provide you with any proof of the emergency situation.
How long can the employee take off work?
There's no limit on how much leave they can take; but, as with parental leave, you are not obliged to pay the employee for this non-working time. (You can do so, of course, and your business' employee handbook or policy documentation that accompanies your employees' employment contract should set out the basis on which you have opted to do this.)
However, all of the other terms and conditions of employment are unaffected. For example, annual leave continues to accrue while the employee is absent.
And if the situation endures, you're entitled to inform the employee that you require them to take the time off as parental leave, (meaning the employee is entitled to take no more than 4 weeks in any year for these purposes. See our guide to parental leave for more information).
During this period, the employee must be protected against unfair treatment or dismissal. Unfair treatment would include for example, refusing the employee training opportunities or a promotion, selecting the employee for redundancy because of the time off request(s) and refusing reasonable time off requests.
If you'd like an expert view where an employee has frequently requested time off to look after a dependent, select our Speak To A Lawyer feature and we'll match you with the right expert so you can have a chat with someone friendly and experienced.
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