Employees have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off work to take necessary action in certain situations that impact on their dependants.

A dependant could be a husband, wife, partner, child, parent or anyone who reasonably relies on your employee for help in an emergency or to provide care for him or her if they fell ill.

Circumstances that could necessitate an employee exercising the right to dependant care might include:

  • To provide assistance when a dependant is ill, gives birth or is injured or assaulted. If the dependant falls ill, the illness or injury may not necessarily be serious or life-threatening. It could be mental, physical or could include the deterioration of a pre-existing condition.
  • To make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who has been ill or injured.
  • To deal with the death of a dependant
  • To deal with an unexpected disruption or breakdown of arrangements for the care of a dependant (e.g. childcare, nursing homes)
  • To deal with an unexpected incident involving your child during school hours

An employee can take time off regardless of their length of service. They will need to inform you that they will be absent as soon as is reasonably practicable and they must give some indication of how long the period of absence is likely to last.

An employer does not have to pay their employee during dependant care although may choose to do so. The company policy on dependant care and compassionate leave should be clearly stated in contracts of employment, written statements and/or the employee handbook.

For information about our Employee Handbook advice service, please visit our business service page.

An employer cannot penalise an employee for taking time off, providing that the reasons are genuine,however,if an employer feels that the employee has been abusing dependant care provision, then they must take steps to warn the employee of their concerns.