Time off for dependants

There are 2 types of leave associated with dependants/children (once the maternity and paternity leave has been used up):-

Dependant leave.

The law says that an employee can take a ‘reasonable’ amount of un-paid time off in the following circumstances:-

  • To provide assistance when a dependant falls ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted
  • To make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured
  • Following the death of a dependant
  • Following unexpected disruption to existing care arrangements
  • As a result of an incident occurring whilst a child is at school

A dependant is someone, of any age, who is reliant on the employee for their care, so includes children, elderly relatives, partners etc.

As usual, there is no definition of what is deemed ‘reasonable’, and each case should be considered on its merits, but there is no legal right to take time off to look after a dependant for the duration of an illness or to stand in for their usual carer. Neither does it provide for ‘compassionate’ leave following a bereavement, but does allow for time off to arrange the funeral and deal with any legal obligations. This type of leave is intended for short term absences in order to take what the law calls ‘necessary actions’ following an emergency situation which could not have been foreseen, such as arranging for someone else to take care of the dependant, to collect a child from school and establish what is wrong, maybe take them to the GP or hospital and arrange for ongoing care if necessary. The employee should make contact with you as soon as possible after the event, should tell you how long they anticipate being off work and keep you informed. It is not acceptable for such an absence to go on indefinitely unless you are happy to agree to that, and the law certainly would not find an extended absence ‘reasonable’. If you want to pay the employee that is fine, but there is no obligation to do so unless there is a contractual right. This leave should be recorded as Dependant Leave. Some people record it as sickness absence which then gives an inaccurate picture of absenteeism and the reason for it

If an employee needs time off for personal reasons which are not covered by the list of circumstances above they will need to seek your agreement to either allow a period of unpaid leave or take holiday. If they take time off without your agreement, or extend a period of authorised leave without permission and/or you are having problems getting hold of them to find out how things are and when you can expect them back at work then give us a call and we will help you reach a practical resolution.

Parental Leave

This is unpaid, pre-planned leave allowed for parents to take care of their child’s welfare. At present, the law allows employees with at least 1 year of service, who have responsibility for a child’s welfare, to take up to 18 weeks leave, in blocks of at least 1 week (unless the child is disabled in which case it can be taken in odd days) but no more than 4 weeks in any year during the first 5 years of the child’s life (or up to the 5th anniversary of the placement if the child is adopted and still under 18) or up to their 18th birthday if they are disabled. From April 2015 the 18 weeks will be able to be taken up to their 18th birthday for all children. At least 3 weeks’ notice must be given by an employee that they want to take parental leave. You can also ask for evidence of the child’s age and disability if required. You can defer the leave for a maximum of 6 months if your business would suffer a detriment by allowing it to be taken when it has been asked for.

This leave should not be confused with the new legal right to Shared Parental Leave which can be taken during the year following the child’s birth/placement, allowing both parents to share what used to be called maternity leave and pay. We have covered this in a previous newsletter but if you need more details please give us a call.

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