COLUMN: Your rights in an emergency

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The scenario: ‘My six year-old son has fallen ill and I need to take time off work. I am worried about approaching my employer. What are my rights?

Roger says:

Most employers are perfectly reasonable if we need to take time off for an emergency and seldom will you have a problem.

However, for some emergencies the law gives you the right to take time off work.

This right does not apply to all workers including (but not exhaustive) police, trainee doctors, members of the armed services, firefighters and coastguards because special rules apply.

Your contract may give you additional rights and you should check this first and unless your contact says otherwise you will not be paid.

The law says that you’re entitled to take reasonable time off work to deal with unexpected problems or emergencies with close family members, or other people who depend on you.

This is sometimes called ‘dependant leave’.

Examples of this may include when someone gets ill, someone dies, care arrangements for someone suddenly break down or needing to deal with an unexpected emergency involving your child at school.

If your employer will not allow you to take time off work you should have an informal conversation with them first.

Explain why you need time off. You could get help to make your case from a union rep if you have one or someone from your HR team.

If this doesn’t work, you have the option of raising a written grievance with your employer. If you need to take matters further you can make a claim at an employment tribunal.

There are strict time limits for making a claim at a tribunal and these should be checked first although this is not always the most practical solution in the case of time off for emergencies.

If you have problems taking time off work for an emergency or you are dismissed for making a request you should seek advice immediately so we can determine your rights and options. Strict time limits will apply so it is very important that you seek help as soon as possible.

For more information visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk, call into the office at the town hall on Bank Road, Matlock, or call 0300 4568390.