Time off for medical appointments—the UK law

  • Leave and Absence
A person taking their medication following an appointment.
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

Can staff take time off your medical appointments? As an employer, there are employee rights you must respect—discover how your business can remain complaint.

It’s inevitable your employees will need to take personal time for visits to a doctors surgery.

But what are your employees’ rights? And under current UK employment law, where do you stand as a business?

Well, you can call us on 0800 029 4388 and we’ll talk you through your business’ rights.

Or you can read this guide, which explains the essential information you need to know.

Do employers have to give time off for medical appointments?

No. Generally, there’s no legal right for staff to take time off for medical appointments, or dental appointments—whether with or without pay.

So, it’s for you to decide whether you let employees take time off work for doctor’s appointments—or if they should go in their personal time.

However, do keep in mind that many employees will view it as a considerable perk if they can visit the doctor during working time.

Otherwise it can prove difficult getting an appointment outside of working hours.

So you may want to allow some leeway, if it’ll help the member of staff return to full fitness in the long-term.

Do you need business help?

Sick leave and absenteeism are time-consuming issues for any organisation, no matter the size.

But it’s important to strike the right balance between supporting your employees, while ensuring you’re meeting quarterly targets.

This is why a sickness absence policy can help to streamline your business’ operations. And at Peninsula Business Services, since 1983 it’s remained our mission to help SMEs remain operational. No matter what happens.

So, should you need help defining your policy, or want guidance with how to deal with leave for medical appointments, get in touch for immediate help: 0800 051 3681.

Employment law—time off for medical appointments and contracts of employment

Putting aside the law, in a situation where an employee asks to take time off for this reason, contracts of employment should be checked to ensure there’s no contractual provision entitling the employee to full pay when taking time off for medical appointments.

The contractual right may only allow unpaid time off, in which case no pay is due to them.

If there is no contractual requirement to allow your employee to take time off for scheduled medical appointments, then you do not have to authorise this.

You can require employees to arrange appointments outside of their working hours or to take the time off from their annual leave.

If they have used the whole of their annual leave entitlement, then you could give them the time off as unpaid leave. Alternatively, you can agree with them to make up the time on a different day.

You should bear in mind the reason why employees are requesting this time off. Medical appointments can be important for their health and wellbeing.

So, making it difficult for staff to attend these could have an overall negative impact on the employment relationship as a whole.

In unforeseen cases where the employee needs urgent medical care (such as dental or medical) the time off may be come under sickness absence.

In that case, they may be have entitlements to statutory or contractual sick pay.

Time off for medical appointments—disability

Taking time off work due to a disability isn’t the same as being ill with, for example, the common cold.

Those with a disability have greater protections under the Equality Act 2010, as opposed to staff members with no disability.

If an employee who’s disabled wants time off to attend a medical appointment in connection to their disability, you should consider whether you to allow paid time off for medical appointments as a reasonable adjustment.

If you don’t, they may make a claim for discrimination arising out of a disability, which can result in an unlimited compensation pay out at the employment tribunal.

Time off for a child’s medical appointment

In unforeseen emergencies involving a child (which could include an unplanned medical appointment), employees do have the right to take a period of time away from work.

That’s to help them deal with the situation. This has a specific term—time off for dependents.

However, this needs to be for an issue that wasn’t expected—taking time away from work to go to a pre-planned appointment will not count.

It’s worth nothing this is a common issue for many parents, particularly of newborn babies. And the health of their child takes an extreme priority in their lives.

So it’s good business practice to offer leniency to support your employees. But, again, it’s entirely up to you how your approach the matter.

Need further assistance?

If you need more advice on whether your employees can take time off for medical appointments, get in touch with us on: 0800 029 4388.


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