Time Off Work For Dependants

The laws relating to employment are constantly changing. With Employment Tribunals, new decisions are made on a daily basis which could have an impact on any current employment case.

Recently, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that an employee was not automatically unfairly dismissed when he took time off to care for his pregnant partner.

The employee had the right to take time off to care for a dependant but the decision was made because the employee failed to tell his employer the reason for his absence within a reasonable time.

Employees are entitled to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work in order to deal with situations concerning their dependants. This could be if a dependant falls ill or the death of a dependant. Dependant extends to spouse, children or person who lives in the same household.

To gain this right, the employee has to inform their employer as soon as reasonably practicable the reason for the absence and how long they expect to be away from work.

In the recent case, the employee’s contract of employment stated that if he was going to be absent he must notify his employer no later than 30 minutes prior to starting work. Previous to this event, the employee had received a warning due to previous attendance issues. The employee did not inform his employer of his absence in this case, and the employee’s father telephoned in the afternoon.

The next day the employee took his partner to Hospital to have the baby but did not attend work or inform anybody. The employer text the employee asking him to contact them urgently. The employee did so and was criticised for failing to make contact. The employee left a message with his employer later on that day, to inform them he would not be in work the following day.

Due to the above, the employer was called to a disciplinary hearing. The employee stated that his mobile phone had run out of battery and that he could not remember his employer’s telephone number. The employer dismissed the employee for not reasonably informing them and due to his previous warning. The employee appealed but this was dismissed.

The employee claimed that he was dismissed unfairly but the Employment Tribunal sided with the employer and stated that the employee did not inform of his absence as soon as reasonably practical. The employee appealed this decision but the Employment Appeal Tribunal agreed with the Employment Tribunal’s decision.

As an employer you should consider the circumstances as to what is reasonably practical for an employee to inform you of their absence in relation to time off for dependants. To protect yourself you should ensure that employees are aware of the company policy.