Time-off for Dependants Advice Guide

  • Leave and Absence
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

Carer’s leave is time off for employees during the event of a family emergency. Our guide explains your staff member’s rights—as well as your business’.

From time to time, your employees may need to take time away from work to support a member of their immediate family.

This is in the event they have an injury or sickness—or if there’s an emergency.

What’s your business’ rights in this situation—along with your employees’?

You can call us on 0800 028 2420 for immediate assistance on the matter. We’re experts in employment law and can help you with any issue relating to employees and time off from work.

You can also read our guide for essential insights into how to approach this issue in your business.

What is time off for dependants in the UK?

It’s where an employee or worker takes time off to deal with an emergency involving one or more of their family members.

It sometimes has the name “compassionate leave”.

Recent figures released by the Carers Trust have revealed that one in eight UK employees juggles their work with unpaid care commitments.

Caring for a friend or family member outside of working hours can be particularly taxing for workers and, perhaps unsurprisingly, one in five have to give up their job due to these commitments.

As a result, there are calls to introduce extended leave specifically for carers.

Dependants leave entitlements in the UK

Employees can claim time away from work (often without pay—depending on your business policies) to support family members.

They can do this to support their:

  • Husband
  • Wife
  • Partner 
  • Child
  • Parents
  • Grandparents

To make sure your staff members are aware of their rights, you should encourage them to check their contract of employment so they understand your policy regarding time off for dependants.

When it comes to dependants leave entitlements in the UK, there are no legal requirements to provide staff with any specific leave.

While employees can have extended time off for annual leave or maternity leave, this isn’t available when it comes to caring.

However, employees often feel they can claim time off for dependants for a sick child.

This isn’t necessarily the case. Although the right to a “reasonable” amount of time off for dependants represents a type of unpaid leave for carers, this is only in the event of emergencies.

It typically lasts between one to two days.

Peninsula Business Services

Time off for dependants can be a contentious issue for employees. If your policies mean staff aren’t able to assist with unwell loved ones, it can have a negative relationship on your workforce.

We’ve assisted tens of thousands of businesses since 1983 on a wide range of compassionate policies—you can request a callback from us, or get in touch immediately, if you need immediate assistance.

Although your focus may be on ensuring business productivity on a daily basis, you should also consider long-term staff retention.

With the right policy for your business, you can support your employees to make sure they can deal with difficult life situations.

Get in touch with us and we’ll talk you through the right procedure for your industry.

The future for carer’s leave

The government has recently announced its plans to introduce the automatic right to a week off work for unpaid carers.

That’s in recognition of the difficulties employees often face when hoping to look after family members.

Employees are set to get one working week (up to 5 days) of unpaid leave per year as part of the  new statutory carer’s leave entitlement.

There is no date yet for when this will come into effect but it will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Can an employer refuse time off for dependants?

Yes, you can tell employees to offer family support outside of working hours. However, you should consider employee relations before making a decision.

Although it isn’t a legal requirement, you may choose to introduce occupational primary carer leave as part of a competitive staff benefits programme.

When doing so, you’ll be free to decide on your approach—such as whether it’s paid carer’s leave.

But it remains important to outline this in your company handbook and/or contract of employment.

Well-constructed policies should answer any staff questions about your procedure. As well as how long the leave will last—and whether staff will receive pay for the time away from work.  

You can also decide on the eligibility requirements and reserve the right to refuse requests from individuals who fail to meet these.

It’s also common for some businesses to restrict this right to those with over two years’ service—or require staff to provide sufficient notice before they grant a period of leave.

Need our help?

Get in touch and we’ll talk your business through any issue relating to employees taking time off. Call us today: 0800 028 2420.


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