Legal Q&A: Time off for dependants

Q. Can my employer discipline me for having a day off to look after my children when the school was closed?

A. If a school closes unexpectedly and there are no other arrangements an employee can make, they are entitled to “time off for dependants” and this is available to both male and female employees.  An employee is permitted to take “a reasonable amount of time off” to make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured or because of unexpected disruption of arrangements for the care of the dependant or to deal with an incident involving a child of the employee which occurs unexpectedly in a period during which an educational establishment is responsible for the child.

This is limited to “a reasonable amount of time off” to make arrangements so should be a minimal amount of time and you should notify the employer at the earliest opportunity and indicate when you are likely to be able to return to work.  The right is for unpaid leave.  An employer would be acting unreasonably threatening to discipline you for exercising your statutory rights.

Tim Thompson, partner, tim.thompson@hegarty.co.uk