If you’re managing work alongside your caring responsibilities, finding a good balance isn’t always easy and can become quite a juggling act. But taking time off from work when you need to prioritise someone’s caring needs shouldn’t be a source of stress or worry. We explain your rights as an employee.
Am I entitled to time off in an urgent situation?
Employees* have the legal right to take a reasonable amount of time off work to deal with an emergency involving someone who relies on you for help (as a dependant).
This could include your spouse, partner, child, parent, or others who depend upon you.
Whether the time off is paid or not is at the discretion of your employer.
*If you are self-employed, on a short-term contract or employed through an agency, your circumstances will be different. We would recommend contacting ACAS on 0300 123 1100 for advice.
What is considered as an emergency?
Here are some examples of when you would be granted time off for an emergency:
- Your usual care arrangements have broken down or been disrupted.
- You need to deal with the death of a dependant.
- A dependant falls ill, has been assaulted or has been in an accident.
- You need to make long-term arrangements for a dependant who is ill or injured (but not to provide long-term care yourself).
- You need to deal with an incident involving a child during school hours.
How do I approach my employer about taking time off?
Contact your employer as soon as you can after you are aware there is an urgent need for you to take time out. Be precise about the details where possible.
After a phone call or face-to-face conversation, you may find it helpful to summarise what you have agreed by email. It is a good idea to have a record to avoid any misunderstanding or crossed wires.
If you are worried you could be challenged, it may be useful to look at your organisation’s policy and refer to this in the first instance. You could look on the organisation’s intranet or speak to someone in human resources to obtain a copy. It may also strengthen your case to refer to the new law being passed that entitles working carers to five days' unpaid carer's leave (see below).
Having problems with taking this time off?
There is professional advice you can seek if you feel that you are being treated unfairly or if your employer is making this difficult for you. Citizens Advice provides good guidance on this, as well as outlining your options for other scenarios where you might need to take time off.
New law passed to support working carers
The Carer’s Leave Act has now received Royal Assent and will become law. The law will come into force at the earliest in April 2024, though the date has not yet been confirmed.
This new Act will give unpaid carers balancing unpaid care with paid employment the legal right to five days of unpaid carer’s leave. The details of how these new rights will work in practice will be confirmed later this year and early next year.
Carers UK has led the campaign for the introduction of carer’s leave for decades and we’re delighted to see it become an Act and set to become law.
Find out more in our press release.