Your rights to emergency leave

There may be occasions, even if you have flexible work arrangements, that you will need time off in an emergency. It may be just a few hours, one or two days or even longer.

By law you’re allowed ‘reasonable’ emergency time off to care for a dependant (this could be your partner, child or one of your parents). Your employer may pay you for this time off, but doesn’t need to.

What is an emergency situation?

  • An emergency can include mental or physical illness, injury or assault.
  • They don’t need to be life-threatening or require full time care.
  • They can be existing conditions that have suddenly got worse.
  • If you’re a working mum and your child has been involved in an incident at school such as a fight, or has been hurt on a school trip you can take time off to comfort or help them.
  • You can take time off to arrange longer term care for a dependant.
  • If your childminder or nanny is sick, or your child’s day nursery is closed you can ask for time off.
  • If you knew about the situation beforehand, for example if you need to take your child to a planned hospital appointment, it can’t be classed as an emergency and you will need to ask for parental leave instead.

How to ask for emergency leave

It’s important to tell your employer as soon as you can if you need time off – even if it’s after you have left work. You don’t need to tell them in writing or provide proof of the emergency.

Your rights to emergency leave

You’re allowed ‘reasonable’ time off in an emergency. Usually one or two days are enough, but there is no set limit. Your employer mustn’t treat you unfairly, dismiss you or make you redundant or refuse you reasonable time off for an emergency. If feel you have been treated unfairly you can get advice from ACAS or take your case to an employment tribunal.