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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:
The definition of ‘dependant' for these purposes is :
includes those who reasonably rely on the employee for such assistance or arrangements.
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.
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