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The law makes allowances for situations where an employee needs to take time off work to deal with an emergency involving someone who depends on them. Employees should inform their employer of a problem that requires them to take time off as quickly as possible and, where the reasons for the request are genuine, the employee must be given reasonable time off in order to deal with the initial consequences of the emergency and to put in place arrangements to allow them to return to work. They must not be subject to a detriment for exercising this right and are protected from dismissal.

The time given should only be that necessary to deal with the initial problem. For example, if a child breaks their arm in school and no one is available to look after them following treatment, then the employer should release the employee for long enough to look after the child until further arrangements can kick in, for example, a friend or relative to sit with the child while the employee returns to work.

Time for family emergencies need not be paid.

A ‘dependent’ for these purposes could be the employee’s husband, wife or partner, child or parent, or someone living with them as part of their family who can be considered as depending on the employee. Others who rely solely on the employee for help in an emergency may also qualify.

Typical employment law pitfalls

It is against the law to prevent an employee from seeking to assert a statutory right, and so refusals of requests for emergency time should be considered carefully. On the other side of the coin, such time off is for EMERGENCIES, not for routine or expected events, and sometimes employers can be too lenient on time requested for these purposes. Undue leniency comes at the expense of business efficiency, or of employee relations issues if other employees believe that they have to work harder to cover for unnecessarily absent colleagues.

Help & Support

We are happy to advise customers on developing local rules for publication and incorporation into employee handbooks on the treatment of ‘emergency leave’. If an emergency leave related dispute is apparent or a complaint is made or you think might be made, please contact us straight away.

If you’re thinking of outsourcing your HR, payroll or employment law needs, why not contact myHRdept? Call us on 01628 820515, email us at to discuss your requirements, or contact us via our website and we’ll call you back.



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