Time Off Work In An Emergency

Time off for dependants

From day one of employment all employees have the right to time off for dependants. Time off for dependants is time off during working hours to deal with unforeseen matters and emergencies.

All employees have the right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off work to deal with an emergency or an unforeseen matter involving a dependent (which includes your partner, child or parent, or someone living with you as part of your family – others who rely on you for help in an emergency may also qualify). The time off is unpaid unless your employer is willing to give paid time off as a contractual right.

Examples of emergency situations:

• A disruption or breakdown in care arrangements
• The death of a dependant
• If a dependant falls ill, has been assaulted or is in an accident
• To make longer term arrangements for a dependant who is ill or injured (but not to provide long term care yourself)
• To deal with an incident involving a child during school hours. If you have worked for the same employer for 12 months and you are responsible for a child  aged under 18, you are entitled to 18 weeks parental leave per child, which must be taken by the child’s 18th birthday. This time off is unpaid unless your employer is willing to give paid time off as a contractual right.

Who is a dependant?

A dependant is someone who depends on the employee for care. A dependant could be a spouse, partner, child, parent, or someone else who depends on the employee, for example an elderly neighbour.

How much time off can be taken?
There is no set limit to how much time can be taken off.
The right is to a reasonable amount of time off, although it is not stated how much is reasonable.
In most cases one or two days will be sufficient to deal with the immediate situation, but it will depend on individual circumstances.
The employee should tell their employer as soon as possible the reason for the absence and how long they expect to be absent.

Pay while absent

There is no automatic right to be paid when taking time off for dependants. An employer can offer a certain amount of paid time off for emergency situations and, if it does, this should be clearly set out in a contract of employment. If the contract is silent on the issue then the time off would usually be unpaid.


Time off for dependants allows employees unpaid time off to arrange or attend the funeral of a dependant.
An employer may have its own policy (compassionate leave) for when an employee is bereaved.

Less favourable treatment

Time off for dependants is a statutory right for all employees and is it unlawful for an employer to subject its employees to any detriment
for taking it.