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Fact sheet

The right to time off in emergencies

Also known as time off for dependants, this gives all employees the right to take a 'reasonable' amount of time off work to deal with an emergency involving a dependant. Whether the time off is paid or not is at the discretion of the employer.

A dependant could be mother, father, son, daughter, parent or anyone who lives with the carer who is solely dependent on them.

Examples of an emergency:

  • A disruption or breakdown in care arrangements
  • The death of a dependant
  • If a dependant falls ill or has been assaulted
  • To make longer term arrangements for a dependant who is ill or injured (but not to provide long term care themselves)

To use this right to time off, employees must inform their employer as soon as possible after the emergency has happened.

This right can also give some protection from vicitimisation and dismissal. Carers who have been treated unfavourably due to using this right, should seek further advice from their trade union or a legal adviser. Much hinges on the interpretation of what constitutes ‘reasonable’ in any given context.

For a recent test case, see Carers Scotland: Unpaid carers to get protection at work following landmark European Court of Justice case