Leave of Absence Guide

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

(Last updated )

Leave of absence is when an employee takes time off yet maintains employee status. But beyond this, the details can get murky. Peninsula makes things clear.

As an employer, there will be times when some of your employees are absent from work.

However, there are many reasons why your employees will require some time off. So, you should understand them - failure to do so can lead to a drop in productivity and morale.

In this guide, we'll discuss what a leave of absence is, the different types, and how to manage it in your business.

What is a leave of absence?

A leave of absence is when an employee has time away from work but remains as an employee. Typically, this is for a few hours or a day or two. However, sometimes employees require a long period of time away from the business depending on their circumstances.

As an employer, it's important you understand the reasons why an employee may require a period of absence from your company.

Reasons for leave of absence

There are many different reasons why employees require a leave of absence. This can range from a holiday or certain personal responsibilities, such as family emergencies.

Other reasons include:

  • Medical appointment or treatment.
  • Paternity, maternity or adoption.
  • To care for dependants and members of the family. 
  • To attend public duties, such as jury service.
  • To accompany colleagues to grievance or disciplinary

Types of leave of absence

There are many types of leave of absence that you need to be aware of. Becoming familiar with them is the best way to ensure you're managing leave of absence in your business correctly.

Let's discuss them in more detail:

Maternity leave

Employees have a legal entitlement to statutory maternity pay and leave They must take two weeks off after the baby is born, increased to four if they work in a factory.

This form of leave is split into two parts, ordinary maternity leave (26 weeks) and additional maternity leave (another 26 weeks). Maternity pay is eligible for 39 weeks, with employees receiving 90% of their average weekly earnings in the first six weeks and this or £172.48 per week for the next 33 week (whichever is lower).

Once the absence period ends, you should reinstate the employee to the same role or move them to an equivalent one.

Paternity leave

Paternity leave is a leave of absence employees are entitled to if their partner has adopted a child, their partner has given birth or had a child through surrogacy (if they are eligible). This leave is one or two weeks, which comes alongside paternity pay.

This leave must be taken in one go and must be taken within 56 days of the birth. Employees receive either 90% of their average weekly earnings or £172.48 per week (whichever is lower).

Parental leave

Employees are entitled to four weeks of unpaid leave to look after their children. Although this leave is legally unpaid, it's at the employers' discretion to pay an employee.

To be eligible for parental leave, the following requirements must have been met:

  • Be classed legally as an employee.
  • Have worked for you for at least one year.

They must also have parental responsibility for the child. Meaning they must be named on the child's birth certificate, adoption certificate, a parental order or legal guardianship.

Annual leave

Anyone classed as workers or employees are entitled to paid time off, known as statutory leave entitlement or annual leave. This includes agency workers, workers on zero-hours contracts and workers with irregular hours.

Their entitlement is 5.6 weeks' of paid holiday a year. The annual leave year in your company can go from January-December or April-March.

For part-time workers, they are also entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid holiday. This is on a prorata basis. However this will be fewer than 28 days. For example, if they work 3 days a week, they must get at least 16.8 days’ leave a year (3 × 5.6).

Sick leave

Staff absence due to illness or injury is generally one of the main reasons for leave of absence. Also known as sick days - it's important you manage this issue correctly.

What is statutory sick pay?

Statutory sick pay is in place to cover employees who are absent from work due to illness. The terms of sick pay should be included within your employment contract.

Included should be whether the employee will receive it and how long for or whether they’ll receive company sick pasy, legally statutory sick pay is currently £96.35 per week for up to 28 weeks. This increases to £109.40 from 6th April 2023.

Typically, sick leave is a few days so sick pay isn't required. Eligible employees are entitled to sick pay from the fourth day of absence.

However, you may have employees who require a long period of time away from the workplace.

Leave for long-term illness

Employees who are absent from work for more than four weeks are classed as being long-term sick. You should remember that employees who are on long-term sick are still accrue annual leave.

It's important to note that there are some grounds when you may be entitled to dismiss an employee who's on long-term sick leave. However, you must be able to prove the following:

  • If an employee can return to work. This can be done via working flexibly or part-time, or by doing different work.
  • If you've consulted with the absent employee about when they can return to work and if their health will improve enough to return.

Parental bereavement leave

Parental bereavement leave is for when employee or their partner suffers the death of a child before they turn 18 or stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

This leave lasts for one or two weeks, and can be taken in two blocks or as a whole. Your employees have 56 weeks to take this leave (if they are eligible). Employees who are eligible are entitled to Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay, which is either 90% of their average weekly earnings or £172.48 per week (whichever is lower).

Carer's leave

There has been progress made in the Right to Carer's Leave Bill, which has passed steps through parliament to allow employees who are eligible one week of unpaid leave per year.

This leave will be for employees who are also carer's some time away from work to care for a family member.

They must be unpaid carers and the person they provide care to must be someone with a long-term care need. For example, a person with a long-term illness or injury covered as a disability under the Equality Act, or issues relating to old age and terminal illness.

Career break

You may have an employee who is looking to take a career break, however there's no laws that regulate this. It's up to the employer to decide whether to grant this request.

You should create a policy that clearly outlines the process to request a career break, and when this may be accepted.

It's important to remember that you aren't required to maintain their employment contract throughout career breaks. So you must communicate this with any employee that's looking to take one.

Jury service and public duties

Employees are allowed time off to attend jury service or other public duties. However there's no legal entitlement for them to receive pay whilst doing so.

They can make claims to the court for loss of earnings or childcare, as well as the cost of travelling to and from court.

You must remember that employers aren't legally allowed to dismiss an employee for attending jury service.

Compassionate leave

Also known as bereavement leave or special paid leave, compassionate leave is time off following the sudden illness or death of someone close to the employee.

Employment law and leave of absence

It's important you understand the government rules and law surrounding leave of absence. There are relevant laws in place to protect both you and your employees:

For example, under law you must must consider reasonable adjustments for disabled employees to support them at work.

How to manage leave of absence

As an employer, there are a couple of things that you can do to help manage leave of absence in your business. Let's discuss them in more detail:

Offer flexible working

You should consider offering flexible working to your employees. This will help them with any family or medical emergencies they would otherwise require time off for. However, this could fall under time off for dependants.

For example, offering later starts can help with childcare.

Create an absence policy

A good way to manage absence in your company is to create a leave of absence policy. This  should be included within your employee handbook, and should detail the following:

  • How to report absences.
  • Who to report absences too.
  • The return to work process.

You should also create a return-to-work policy that can help staff when they return to work. This should make it clear how you'll help the absent employee deal with their return to work, especially if they've been absent for a while.

Get expert advice on leave of absence from Peninsula

As an employer, there will be times when some of your employees require a leave of absence from work.

However, there are many reasons why your employees will require some time away. So, it's important you understand them - failure to do so can lead to a drop in productivity and morale.

Peninsula offers 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our HR experts. Want to find out more? Contact us on <a href="tel:08000513687" class="rulertel">0800 051 3687</a> and book a free consultation with one of our HR consultants.

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