Time off for Dependents

Updated: 18 January 2019

All employees are entitled to take a reasonable amount of time off work for a variety of sudden or unexpected events that affect someone who is dependent on the individual and therefore makes the immediate presence of the individual indispensable.

All periods of leave approved under this right to take time off for dependents are unpaid.

Advance notice is not required, neither is there a requirement for a qualifying period of employment.

Who are Dependents?

Employees have the right to take a reasonable amount of time off work for their dependants.

Dependents are defined as:-

  • the employee’s partner including non-married and same sex partners;
  • the employee’s child including step-children and grand-children;
  • the employee’s parents or other family relatives such as grand-parents, aunts and uncles;
  • friends who live together;
  • a person who lives in the employee’s household (excluding tenants, lodgers and employees);
  • a person who reasonably relies on the employee for assistance in the event of an accident or for care in the event of an illness or injury, for example an elderly neighbour; and
  • in relation to the disruption or termination of care for a dependant, a person who reasonably relies on the employee to make arrangements for the provision of care.

What Circumstance Are Covered?

The right to time off work for dependants is limited to dealing with an unexpected event involving a dependant. The circumstances in which time off work may be taken are specified in the legislation.

Time off can be taken to:-

  • Provide assistance on an occasion when a dependent falls ill, gives birth or is injured or assaulted;
  • Make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependent who is ill or injured;
  • Deal with the death of a dependent;
  • Deal with the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependent; or
  • Deal with an incident involving the employee’s child which occurs unexpectedly in a period during which an educational establishment is responsible for the child

The Frequency Of Absences


The legislation permitting employees to take time off for dependants does not place a limit on the number of times that employees can take time off work. For example, where an employee has a young son who, over the course of a year, is unable to attend school on several separate occasions due to sickness (because he has chicken pox, then an ear infection, then a sore throat) the employee will be entitled to take time off on each occasion.

Top Tip
Take into account the circumstances and treat each situation on the basis of whether or not the time off is reasonable and necessary.

Length Of Absences


The legislation permitting employees to take time off for dependants does not place a limit on the amount of time off that an employee can take. Employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of time off work to deal with an unexpected event. The appropriate length of the employee’s absence will vary according to the employee’s circumstances. For example, only a few hours may be required to make arrangements for an alternative carer whilst in other situations a little longer may be necessary. In most cases one or two days should be sufficient to deal with the immediate crisis. Holiday entitlement may be used to extend the period of time approved under this right if the one or two days is not sufficient to deal with the situation.

In circumstances where some advance notice is given, even if only a day, then annual holiday entitlement or, in situations where a child is involved, parental leave may be used instead of this right. Holiday and/or parental leave, in situations where a child is involved, may also be used to extend the period of time approved under this right if the one or two days is not sufficient to deal with the situation.

Rights During Time Off


Employees are not entitled to be paid while they are taking time off for dependants. However, all of the other terms and conditions of employment are preserved. For example, annual leave continues to accrue while the employee is absent.

Model Time off for Dependents Policy

My Time off for Dependents Policy summarises the statutory right to take unpaid time off work to deal with emergencies involving a dependant.

To download the Time Off For Dependents Policy complete your details below and an email containing the document will find it’s way to your inbox:

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Time Off For Dependents