Our guide to dealing with difficult situations.

November 8, 2016


Employees do have the right to ‘reasonable’ time off to deal with an urgent situation involving a ‘dependent’, which might be a spouse or partner, child, grandchild, parent, or someone else who depends on the employee for care.

There is no obligation on the employer to pay the employee for this time, unless it says so in their contract or employee handbook. You can agree to let them take the time as annual leave, if you both agree to this.

The entitlement is to a ‘reasonable’ amount of time, though this isn’t defined. In general, it would be reasonable to take a day or two to care for a sick child, while putting something longer-term in place if necessary. It is not designed to allow someone to take two weeks off to care for a sick child, or to take a dependent to a pre-arranged appointment.

It’s sensible to record the time taken, but it should be separate from an employee’s sickness absence record.


In general, there is no ‘right’ for an employee to take time off work for medical appointments. If you do agree to such time off, you don’t have to pay for the time, unless it says differently in your contracts or employee handbook. Or you may agree to allow the employee to ‘make up’ the time on another occasion.

Different rules apply to appointments related to maternity/ antenatal care (see below), or if the appointments relate to a disability under the Equality Act 2010. It’s beyond the scope of this article to consider disability and the Equality Act, and if you think it may apply, you should always seek specialist advice.

In Simon’s case, it might be reasonable to ask him to try to move the appointment to a less disruptive time, but it is probably not in the interests of Simon or the practice to delay too long, since, if the problem gets worse, it may start to affect his ability to work at all.

Sally & Dave

Pregnant women are entitled to ‘reasonable’ paid time off for antenatal care. This extends beyond medical appointments, and includes other antenatal or parenting classes recommended by a doctor or midwife. Therefore Sally’s midwife-led relaxation classes would come under this umbrella, and she is entitled to paid time off to attend them.

As the father, and Sally’s partner, Dave is entitled to unpaid time off to accompany Sally to up to two antenatal appointments.


This information has been produced as general guidance only, and is not a substitute for specific legal advice on any given situation.

Eight Legal Ltd. Premiere Service provides Contracts, Employee Handbook, and comprehensive policies and template letters, along with unlimited email and telephone advice. The advice is practical and business-focused, to keep your practice running smoothly. For more information contact us on 01242 570161, email [email protected].