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Emergency/dependants leave and compassionate leave

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You can find out below about the legal rights to short-term emergency time off, and compassionate leave provisions that you may wish to make.

The legal right to time off for dependants/emergency leave

Employees have the legal right to take unpaid short-term time off work to deal with an emergency involving someone who depends on them.

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

The leave can be taken for immediate and unforeseen emergency situations, such as:

  • to deal with a breakdown in childcare or a problem at a child’s school
  • to put longer-term care in place for children or elderly relatives
  • if a dependant falls ill or is taken into hospital
  • to arrange or attend a funeral.

For further information including the circumstances where unpaid time off must be granted, see Time off for family and dependants on GOV.UK or the Acas guidance, Time off for dependants.

In most cases a day or two of time off will be sufficient to deal with the immediate crisis, but it will depend on the individual circumstances. The employee must tell the employer the reason for the absence, and how long they expect to be absent for, as soon as possible.

Compassionate leave

Many employers will provide a short period of paid time off for dealing with bereavement or other personal matters. An example might be to allow up to five days’ paid leave in any rolling 12-month period to deal with a bereavement or other significant personal matter. Where staff need more time than this, an additional five days’ unpaid leave could be awarded.

It is helpful to have a policy on compassionate leave, so that there is consistency in approach.

See Compassionate leave: Taking time off for a bereavement on the Acas website.

Parental bereavement leave

From 6 April 2020 there is a new right to parental bereavement leave. See the parental leave section for further information.

Further resources

Page last edited Apr 06, 2022

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