What is dependency leave?
What is dependency leave? How can you tackle potential abuse of this leave?
Employees have the right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to take action that is necessary:
- to provide assistance on an occasion when a 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 incident involving a child of the employee that occurs unexpectedly during a period when the child is attending school.
It does not include the right to time off to provide care beyond a reasonable amount necessary to deal with the immediate crisis. Note that this is the minimum statutory right; their contract may offer entitlements over and above this.
The legislation does not limit the number of times that employees can take time off work, nor the amount of time they can take off. Their manager should take into account the circumstances and treat each situation on the basis of whether or not the time off is reasonable and necessary.
How to tackle abuse of this leave
- The line manager could explore whether or not alternative arrangements would be suitable, for example it may be appropriate to allow the employee to take annual leave at short notice, or they might be able to work from home or make up the missed hours.
- Where the employee has given a trivial reason for not attending work, the manager may have to explain that, if the employee does not attend work, this will amount to unauthorised absence entitling the employer to instigate the organisation's disciplinary procedure.
- Where the manager has reasonable grounds for believing that the employee is abusing the right to time off, e.g. lying about the purpose, the first step is for the manager to conduct an investigation. The manager could ask the employee to provide evidence of the purpose of the time off where there are reasonable grounds for doing so, or a signed written statement from the employee. The manager should proceed with caution: the employee is not required to provide evidence when taking time off, but if the manager considers that the employee is abusing the right to time off for dependants, it is likely to be appropriate for them to ask for evidence as part of the investigation.
Answered by Ian Deakin, employment lawyer at Browne Jacobson LLP
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