Time off for dependants

Employees are now entitled to take a reasonable amount of time off during working hours to take necessary action in relation to dependants.  The new provisions, under the Employment Relations Act 1999, came into effect today.

Dependants include:

  • a spouse
  • a child
  • a parent
  • a person who lives in the same household as the employee (but not the employee’s tenant, lodger or boarder)
  • someone who reasonably relies on the employee for assistance on an occasion when they fall ill or are injured or who relies on the employee to make arrangements for the provision of care

The right is to a reasonable amount of time to take action which is necessary:

  • to provide assistance when the dependant falls ill, gives birth or is injured or assaulted
  • to make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured
  • in consequence of the death of a dependant
  • because of the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant
  • to deal with an unexpected incident involving a child of the employee whilst at an educational establishment responsible for the child

The employee must:

  • tell the employer the reason for his/her absence as soon as reasonably practical
  • tell the employer how long he/she expects to be absent (unless the employee is unable to tell the employer the reason for the absence until after returning to work)

Employees can seek compensation from an Employment Tribunal if they are refused time off under these provisions.

The Act does not define how long a time is reasonable for employees to take off work.  Nor does it specify whether the time off should be paid.  Employers should draw up guidelines on the mechanics of how employees are to exercise the new right, and should consider establishing a policy on payment.

Bulletins are for general guidance only. Legal advice should be sought before taking action in relation to specific matters. Where reference is made to Court decisions facts referred to are those reported as found by the Court. Please note that past bulletins included in the Archive have not been updated by any subsequent changes in statute or case law.