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Time Off for Dependants

Time Off for Dependants


What is the right?

Employees have the right under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (s.57A) to take a 'reasonable' amount of time off work in various circumstances that relate to the care of a dependant. These are:

  • to provide assistance on an occasion when a dependant falls ill, gives birth or is injured or assaulted,
  • to make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured,
  • in consequence of the death of a dependant,
  • because of the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant, or
  • to deal with an incident which involves a child of the employee and which occurs unexpectedly in a period during which an educational establishment which the child attends is responsible for him.


The employee is obliged to let his/her employer know the reason for the absence and for how long he or she expects to be absent, except in cases where it is not reasonably practicable to do so until his/her return to work. The statutory right is only to take unpaid time off.


Who is a 'dependant' for these purposes?

A 'dependant' for the purposes of the right is the employee's spouse or civil partner, child, parent or a person who lives in the same household (other than his/her employee, tenant, lodger or boarder). Additionally a 'dependant' can include any person who reasonably relies on the employee for assistance on an occasion where the person falls ill, is injured or assaulted, or would rely on the employee to make arrangements for the provision of care.


Do we need a policy?

The right to take time off for dependants is enshrined in law and therefore schools and colleges do not need to have a specific policy on it unless they depart from the statutory scheme (for example by paying for some time off). However it is good practice to include something on this subject in your policy covering special leave of absence to ensure that employees understand the expectations of them when requesting leave and also how it interacts with other forms of leave, such as compassionate leave. An example special leave policy is available in our Time Off and Special Leave topic area.



Visit our FAQs section for some answers to questions covering commonly-asked themes relating to time off for dependants.