We’ve all found ourselves in emergency situations when we need to help and support our family, but how does this work when you are an employee? If you’re a parent of a child and they get chickenpox and can’t go to usual childcare, what are your options? What about if you care for an elderly parent and they have a fall? We've put together a handy guide explaining your rights when taking time off work to care for a loved one.

Taking time off work to care for a sick relative

If you are in a position where you have a sick child that needs you to care for them, then the law is on your side as your child is classified as your dependant. This may also apply if you are the carer for a spouse or partner, or parent too. 

As an employee in the UK, you have the right to take time off when there is an emergency situation that you have to deal with, giving you the time and space required to get your dependant the help they need. For example, you can take enough time off to organise replacement childcare if your nanny is ill, or if your parent’s paid carer is unwell. The law states that you can have a 'reasonable’ amount of time off to handle the emergency and put things in place. 

Remember that there is no set time specified as each situation is different, meaning that you will need to work with your employer to agree on the required time. Working together and keeping your employer in the loop will help.

Time off work to care for a dying parent or partner

When your time off requirements extend beyond an emergency and require you to support someone you love who is dying, then it can be difficult. Your employer should have a compassionate leave policy that will apply to the time needed. It may be that you can be granted some unpaid time off. Some employers go further to offer some paid compassionate leave, especially over the actual death and funeral of a loved one.  

Most employers will understand the difficulties you face when dealing with the prospect of losing someone you love and afford you the time you need to care for them before being able to return to work. However, if your absence will be for a prolonged time, because of the stress of the situation, you may need to speak to your GP about being signed off sick instead.

Time off work for caring responsibilities

If you are a parent whose child has an accident or is unwell, you may be worried that phoning in sick could harm your employment and your employee record. 

Broadly, this is not the case, and you should remember that you are entitled to reasonable time off to make proper care arrangements in these situations. You should make sure that you let your employer know as soon as possible so that they can mitigate the disruption of you being away from work. 

Remember that the law supports you in taking time to find a solution, but this does not mean that you have the right to take lots of time off to cover each sickness unless there are mitigating circumstances that your employer has been made aware of. Predominantly, you should organise back-up plans for when childcare falls through or isn’t possible. This may include flexible working or working from home.

Parents of disabled children are entitled to more dependency leave and parental leave, and can take these more flexibly than most parents. For example, you may be able to take an individual day of parental leave to take a child to a hospital appointment when most parents can only use parental leave in blocks of one week. However, remember that this leave is usually unpaid.

Financial considerations when taking time off work for dependants

Despite having the legal right to some time off to handle emergencies that involve your dependants, you do not have the right to be paid for the time you take off work. Some employers make the decision to pay their employees during emergencies, but they are under no obligation to do so, meaning that you will need to carefully consider your finances before taking time off. 

Your contract and employee policies should clearly state whether you are paid for emergency or compassionate leave, but you can always check with your HR team if you are unsure. If you need to take a prolonged period of time away from work, then you may be entitled to certain benefits to help cover your losses.

Handling problems with your employer when taking time off

Sadly, some employers make it very difficult for individuals to take time off for emergencies and fail to support them well enough when handling a crisis such as a terminal illness or the death of a relative. 

In these cases, the law is there to support you to ensure your rights are respected. If you find that you are treated unfairly, it is a good idea to seek expert advice from an impartial service such as Bloss, who can link you with an expert who can tell you what your rights are and whether your employer has treated you unfairly.

Getting the expert support you need 

Whether you need time off work to care for a partner with cancer, to look after poorly children or take time off work to care for parents, it is important that you get access to accurate advice from experts that understand your situation. 

At Bloss, we are here to help connect you to experts who can offer you the best advice and support so that you can focus on looking after your loved ones without worrying about your rights. Take a look at our advice and let Bloss help you when you need us the most so that you can take the time you need to help your loved ones.

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