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Time Off For Dependents

When can employees take time off?

All employees are entitled to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work in order to look after dependents. This includes sickness, injury or assault, childbirth or death, as well as when arrangements for the care of a dependent unexpectedly break down, or there is a school incident involving a dependent.

Who is a dependent?

A dependent is the husband, wife or civil partner, child or parent of the employee (whether they live with the employee or not) or any member of the employee’s household (including an unmarried or gay partner and an elderly relative living in the house – but not a lodger or a tenant).

The definition of dependent will also extend to someone who reasonably relies on the employee for assistance, or is the only person who can help in an emergency when care arrangements break down.

Can a request for time off be refused?

If the employee does not explain why they need the time off work as soon as is reasonably practicable, or will not disclose how long the absence is likely to be, there is no obligation to allow the time off.

How are these rights enforced?

An employee may seek a declaration from an Employment Tribunal that they have unreasonably been refused time off. The Tribunal may also award compensation, taking into account the nature of the refusal and any expenses incurred by the employee.

This is in addition to any other unfair dismissal and/or discrimination rights which may arise if the employee is victimised as a result of seeking to take or taking time off, or is dismissed as a result of taking or seeking to take time off work.

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