Kate Brooks
Partner, Solicitor & Head of Employment/HR Services
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Date Published:11 Mar 2020 Last Updated:24 Oct 2021

Coronavirus (COVID-19): emergency time off for dependants

Employment Law Advice

If an employee has to take time off to care for a dependant e.g. because a nursery or school is closed, this can be classed as emergency dependant leave.

There is a legal right for employees to take unpaid time off in an emergency situation to care for a dependant.

This legal right is only in order to put in place an alternative arrangement. If there is no alternative arrangement, then an employee may be forced to take more time which strictly speaking would be unpaid. An employer may consider whether arrangement can be made to work from home, have holiday or sickness.

Employers should check guidance and also their own policies and procedures to ensure they have clear guidance as to what emergency dependant leave is and who it applies to. Beware that the legal right to time off for dependants in emergencies also includes a right not to be treated badly as a result of exercising this right. That being said, as an employer you are perfectly entitled to question the length of leave and basis.

There is great guidance on the government website.

If you have any questions on HR related matters, please contact kate.brooks@ellisjones.co.uk or 01202 057754.