Compassionate leave


Employees are entitled to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to deal with certain emergencies.

Author: Roxanne Bradley
Reading time: 2 minutes

This article is 6 years old.

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Employees have no statutory right to compassionate leave so a request can be refused. Although this is the legal position, it is often seen as being unfair.

Employees are entitled to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to deal with certain emergencies that arise which involve their dependants. The amount of time off should be sufficient to enable them to deal with the crisis or make alternative long term care arrangements. Situations such as a dependent falls ill, is injured, dies or where there’s been a unexpected disruption to care arrangements.

A dependant falls into the category of a spouse, partner, child, parent or someone who lives with the employee as part of their family.

You can grant compassionate leave for a longer period of time but this is at your discretion.

If your employee requests compassionate leave and you wish to refuse, then we advise this should be formally done by a letter to the employee. It should include the grounds for the refusal of the request, such as their request doesn’t relate to an immediate family member.

Obviously, if the employee wishes to use days from their holiday entitlement and as long as they follow the appropriate procedure then this would be acceptable.

It is important to be aware that religions have different bereavement requirements. Any failure to accommodate any such requirements where reasonable, could result in a claim or indirect discrimination unless your refusal can be objectively justified.

Roxanne Bradley

Legal Advisor

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