Time off to look after dependants


Dismissal is likely to be deemed for assertion of the statutory right, and hence automatically unfair.

Author: Kiril Moskovchuk
Reading time: 3 minutes

This article is 4 years old.

Read our disclaimer keyboard_arrow_down

This website content is intended as a general guide to law as it applies to the motor trade. Lawgistics has taken every effort to ensure that the contents are as accurate and up to date as at the date of first publication.

The laws and opinions expressed within this website may be varied as the law develops. As such we cannot accept liability for or the consequence of, any change of law, or official guidelines since publication or any misuse of the information provided.

The opinions in this website are based upon the experience of the authors and it must be recognised that only the courts and recognised tribunals can interpret the law with authority.

Examples given within the website are based on the experience of the authors and centre upon issues that commonly give rise to disputes. Each situation in practice will be different and may comprise several points commented upon.

If you have any doubt about the correct legal position you should seek further legal advice from Lawgistics or a suitably qualified solicitor. We cannot accept liability for your failure to take professional advice where it should reasonably be sought by a prudent person.

All characters are fictitious and should not be taken as referring to any person living or dead.

Use of this website shall be considered acceptance of the terms of the disclaimer presented above.

It may happen that a spouse or another dependant of an employee suddenly falls ill, or a dependant child has an incident at school and this employee urgently requires some time off to deal with an emergency situation.

It is a statutory right granted by s. 57A of the amended Employment Rights Act 1996 to take time off work, which is unpaid, to look after a dependant. Who is a dependant is broadly interpreted: it can be the employee’s parent, child, spouse, any other member of the household.

This right, however, applies only to a narrow number of critical situations where the time off is required:

– 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

– because of the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant

– in consequence of the death 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 (school, academy and so on) which the child attends is responsible for him.

For the first three categories dependants include any parson who reasonably relies on the employee for assistance when this person falls ill or is injured or assaulted, or for making arrangements for the provision of care in the event this person falls ill or is injured. This person can be, for example, an elderly neighbour after whom the employee looks after on occasion and who would normally rely on the employee in case of emergency.

This statutory right only entitles the employee to take time off which is necessary and for as long as it is necessary to deal with the emergency, for example, routine hospital appointments will not be covered. The length of the emergency time off would normally be hours, or a day or two in the most exceptional circumstances.

As soon as it is practicable the employee is required to notify the employer of the reason for the absence and how long the employee expects to be absent but in some exceptional situations it may not be practicable for the employee to tell the employer of his absence until after the employee returns to work.

It is worth mentioning that this right for emergency time off covers all employees regardless of the length of their service. If the employee is dismissed for the reason of taking time off to look after dependants provided the situation falls under one of the categories explained above, the dismissal is likely to be deemed for assertion of the statutory right, and hence automatically unfair.

Kiril Moskovchuk

Legal Advisor

Read more by this author

Getting in touch

You can contact us via the form or you can call us on 01480 455500.