Employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday each year (including bank holidays). Apart from your holiday, there are other situations where you might be entitled to time off, such as to look after a dependant. Read my blog for more information.
This note considers some of the circumstances in which you may be entitled to time off work. It is not exhaustive and does not consider parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave.
Caring for dependants
Employees have the right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off work to take ‘necessary’ action to deal with particular situations affecting their dependants (e.g. spouse, civil partner, children or parents). This might be to help if a dependant is ill, is injured, to make care arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant, if the dependant dies or to deal with an unexpected incident involving your child during school hours.
Note that the right to time off does not apply to planned time off to care for dependants, e.g. to take them to a planned medical appointment.
What is a reasonable amount of time off will depend upon the nature of the incident and your individual circumstances. You must inform your employer as soon as possible the reason for your absence and how long you expect to be away from work.
Although the right is for unpaid time, your employer may still choose to pay you.
Attending medical or dental appointments
There is no general right to take time off for routine medical or dental appointments if you are not unfit for work. Unless your employment contract contains such a right, any time off for such appointments (whether paid or unpaid) is at your employer’s discretion. If you are pregnant however, you are allowed paid time off for antenatal appointments. In addition, where the medical appointment is required due to a disability, the obligation to make reasonable adjustments may be triggered. This could require your employer to permit time off for the appointment in circumstances where it would not normally allow such absence.
To look for a new job if you are being made redundant
If you are under notice of dismissal by reason of redundancy you are entitled to take reasonable time off during working hours to look for a new job or to arrange training for future employment. The time off must be paid up to a maximum of 40% of a week’s pay.
You must have been continuously employed for 2 years by the date your notice expires or the date when notice would expire if the statutory minimum notice due had been given, whichever is later.
There is no definition of what is ‘reasonable’ time. It will depend on your individual circumstances.
Your employer must allow you to take jury service, although they can ask you to apply to be excused or to defer the time you take if it will cause a significant adverse impact on the business. In fact, rather than this being a direct right, you are instead protected from being subjected to a detriment or being dismissed as a result of being summoned to attend for service as a juror or being absent from work on jury service.
Your employer does not have to pay you during jury service absence (although may have a policy to do so). Otherwise you must claim for travel, food expenses and loss of earnings from the court.
You are entitled to time off work during normal working hours to carry out certain public duties. The right is available to employees who are:
• Justices of the peace (magistrates);
• Local Councillors
• School governors
• Members of a local authority
• Members of a statutory tribunal (such as an employment tribunal)
• Members of an independent monitoring board for a prison
• Members of a health authority
• Members of a relevant education body
• Members of the Environment Agency or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency
• Members of Scottish Water
• Members of a trade union (for trade union duties).
If you are a justice of the peace you are entitled to take time off to perform any duties of that office. In other cases, you are entitled to time off to attend a meeting of the relevant body or any of its committees and to do any other thing approved by the body to discharge its functions.
The amount of time off and any conditions imposed by your employer (such as requiring you to request leave as soon as possible in advance) must be reasonable having regard to what duties you need to carry out, how long those will take and how much time you have already taken.
There is no right to be paid for time off for public duties. It’s left to your employer’s discretion (subject to any provision in your contract) to decide whether to continue to pay you despite your absence.
If your employer refuses to allow you to take time off for any of the above reasons, or penalises you or dismisses you for exercising your statutory right, you may be able to complain to an employment tribunal. Where a tribunal finds in your favour, it may award compensation at a level which it considers just and equitable having regard to your employer’s default and any relevant loss sustained by you.
Seek advice from an employment law specialist as soon as possible as there are strict time limits in which to make a claim.
Can we help you?
If you need advice about your individual situation, please contact us. Call on 01522 440512 or visit our website www.lincslaw.co.uk for more information.
Associate, Specialist Employment Law Solicitor
Lincs Law Solicitors, Lincoln