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Law for Business

Knowhow - guidance - precedents

12 AUG 2013

Time off for emergencies – what rights does an employee have?

Pam Loch

Managing Partner

@LochLaw

Employees are entitled by virtue of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) to a reasonable amount of time off to deal with unexpected or sudden emergencies involving a dependant.  There is no requirement for time off to be paid but an employer can choose to pay if they want to by creating a contractual right to pay or exercising their discretion.

In order to benefit from this statutory right to time off the emergency must be in relation to:

  • provision of assistance if a dependant falls ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted.
  • making care arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured.
  • the consequences of the death of a dependant.
  • dealing with the unexpected disruption, termination or breakdown of arrangements for the care of a dependant.
  • dealing with an unexpected incident which involves the employee's child during school (or another educational establishment's).

The definition of ‘dependant' for these purposes is :

  • a spouse, civil partner, child or parent (but not grandparent) of the employee, or a person who lives in the same household as the employee (excluding tenants, lodgers, boarders and employees).
  • for the purposes of time off:
  • to provide assistance if a dependant falls ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted; or
  • to arrange for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured

includes those who reasonably rely on the employee for such assistance or arrangements.

  • for the purposes of time off because of the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant includes those who reasonably rely on the employee to make arrangements for the provision of care.

What amounts to a ‘reasonable' amount of time off depends on the employee's personal circumstances and the nature of the emergency. Whilst the ERA does not prescribe a limit, guidance and case law suggests that in the vast majority of cases, no more than a few hours, or at most a maximum of one or two days would be regarded as reasonable.

Employees must not to be dismissed or subjected to a detriment as a result of exercising or trying to exercise their right to time off under this entitlement. However abuse of the entitlement does not prevent an employer taking disciplinary action against the employee. Employers should put in place clear policies setting out employee entitlements and notification procedures.

 Pam Loch, Managing Partner of niche employment law practice, Loch Associates Employment Lawyers and Managing Director of HR Advise Me Limited.  

For more information on Loch Associates Employment Lawyers please go to www.lochassociates.co.uk and for HR Advise Me go to www.hradvise.me

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