The Parental Leave Directive also contains a right to reasonable, unpaid, time off to deal with family emergencies. This has been incorporated into the Employment Relations Act of 1999 and came into effect on 15th December 1999.
You are entitled to take a reasonable amount of time off during your normal working hours in order to take action concerning the care of a dependant.
What circumstances qualify for leave?
You will be entitled to take a reasonable amount of time off during your normal working hours in the following types of circumstance:-
- 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 a death of a dependant.
- Because of the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant or
- To deal with an incident which involves a child of the employee and which occurred unexpectedly in the period during which an educational establishment, which the child attends, is responsible for him or her.
Who is a “dependant”?
A dependant is defined as the employee’s wife, husband, child, parent or someone who lives in the same household as the employee but who is not his or her employee, tenant, lodger or boarder.
In addition, a dependant includes any person who reasonably relies on the employee for assistance if they should fall ill, become injured or are assaulted. So a dependent does not have to be a relative. Furthermore when the time off relates to an unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant, then a dependant will also include any person who reasonably relies on the employee to make arrangements for the provision of care. This last category may cover a situation when the employee is the primary carer or is the only person who can help in an emergency situation.
Some key points regarding time off:-
- There is no statutory right for this time off to be paid. Employers can choose to make some of this payable if they wish to do so.
- In order to be allowed time off, you must tell your employer the reason for the absence as soon as reasonably practicable. Given that this leave is to cater for emergencies or unexpected situations, this request for leave cannot be provided well in advance and may well be on the day of absence. You must tell your employer how long you expect to be absent, unless this is not possible.
- The legislation has not set any limit on the amount of time off that you can take, although it must be reasonable in the circumstances. This right does not provide you with more than a few days to put in place arrangements for longer term problems. It would be dangerous for your employer to try and restrict the amount of leave that can be taken, but it is only meant to be a short period of absence to deal with the emergency.
- The leave is unpaid, unless your Employer has Compassionate leave with pay in your Contract or Employment terms
- Your contract of employment remains in force during these periods of leave and you should be allowed to return to the job you left.