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Time off for family emergencies



Children get ill, arrangements break down, it’s all part of family life. You can’t deal with everything from work, so sometimes you just have to get out of there. What are your rights when you have to take time off work to deal with a family emergency?


If you are an employee, you have the right to time off when you need to deal with an emergency involving a dependent. There is no right to be paid for the time off but many employers pay for a limited number of days, so check your contract.

How long can I have off?

The amount of time off is what is reasonable in the circumstances. This will usually be one or two days to make alternative arrangements but, if you cannot arrange something else you may be able to argue you should have longer off. 

There is no limit to how many times in a year you take time off for emergencies as long as the reasons for the time off are not foreseeable. 

What is classed as an emergency?

The circumstances when you can take time off are when:

  • a dependent falls ill, is injured or assaulted
  • a dependent gives birth
  • a dependent dies and you need time to arrange or attend the funeral
  • care arrangements for a dependent break down
  • you need to attend your child’s school to deal with an unexpected incident

Your child’s health

Who is a dependent?

A dependent is anyone who depends on you for assistance or care.  The rules are stricter for arranging and attending funerals but include your immediate family.

Why use it for a birth, why not paternity leave?

If you are not entitled to paternity leave you can use this right to be there at the birth.  Even if you are entitled to paternity leave you might want to take the paternity leave at a certain time, e.g. school holidays, but still be there at the birth.

Paternity leave

What if my employer disciplines or dismisses me?

Your employer must not treat you less well for taking or trying to take time off for dependants.  It must not be counted as sickness or unauthorised absence.

What to do if your rights are denied

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