top of page

Special Leave

You are probably familiar with sick leave, holiday and maternity leave, but did you know there are other types of leave your employees are legally entitled to?

Time off for Dependents

Employees have a statutory right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to take action in relation to unforeseen events involving a dependent.

A dependent can be defined as any of the following:

  • Spouse/civil partner

  • Child

  • Parent

  • Person who lives in the same household but is not a tenant, lodger, boarder or employee

  • Those who reasonably rely on the employee for the provision of care or for assistance if they fall ill. For example, an elderly neighbour.

What you can considered as a reasonable time off will depend on the specific circumstances. The same event may need different amounts of time off for different people. But it's worth noting that the right to time off is meant to cover the time required to make arrangements in the event of an emergency, so generally you would expect the leave to be no more than one or two days.

Events that would be covered by the right to time off for dependents are unforeseen emergencies such as:

  • When a dependent falls ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted (including mental illness or injury)

  • To make arrangements for the provision of care for a dependents who is ill or injured

  • When a dependent dies

  • To cope with the unexpected breakdown of arrangements for caring for a dependent and

  • To deal with an incident involving a child of the employee which occurs unexpectedly during school hours or in circumstances where the school has responsibility for the child.

There is no legal obligation on the Company to pay employees for time off for dependants.

Parental Leave

Qualifying employees have the right to take up to 18 weeks' unpaid parental leave for the purposes of caring for a child. Employees can take a maximum of 4 weeks' leave per child, per year to a maximum of 18 weeks' per child.

To qualify for parental leave, the employee must have at least one year's continuous service and must have or expect to have responsibility for the child to be cared for.

Parental Leave must be taken before the child is 18 years of age.

Employees are protected from unfair treatment as a result of requesting and taking Parental Leave, therefore it is highly recommended that employers have a policy to help manage requests.

Trade Union Duties

If an employee is an elected trade union or employee representative, they are entitled to reasonable paid time off to carry our their duties, including:

  • representing a colleague at a disciplinary hearing

  • attending consultation meetings with management

  • carrying out other duties relating to the role.

Jury Service

Although there is no automatic right to time off work to attend Jury Service, it is automatically unfair to dismiss an employee because of Jury Service. Plus, you could be in contention of court if you deny the employee time off work to fulfil their duties. So actually...if an employee is summoned for Jury Service, you really do need to give them the time off! There is no legal obligation for you to pay the employee for Jury Service and the employee can claim for loss of earnings from the court.

Public Duties

Employees have a right to unpaid time off to perform specified public duties:

  • justices of the peace

  • members of a local authority

  • members of a police authority

  • members of any statutory tribunal

  • members of the managing or governing body of an educational establishment

  • members of a health service or education body

  • members of a prison visiting committee

  • members of the Environment Agency

  • members of the prison independent monitoring boards (in England and Wales) or of the prison visiting committees (Scotland).

The duties for which an employer is required to permit reasonable time off are any of the duties of a justice of the peace, or, as regards membership of any one of the bodies listed above, to:

  • attend meetings of the body or any of its committees or sub-committees or

  • perform duties approved by the body.


Employers of reservists who are called up are obliged to release them and to re-employ them afterwards, provided the employee makes a written application for re-employment within six months. These special provisions apply only if there has been an official call-up. Employees who are reservists must normally make their own arrangements with their employers for time off for other purposes, such as training.

Time to Study

Young people (ie those aged 16 or 17 or those aged 18 but who began relevant study or training before reaching that age) are entitled to paid time off for specified study or training.

Bereavement Leave

There is no legal obligation to provide bereavement leave to employees, but there are benefits to doing so:

  • May reduce sporadic absences in the future

  • Helps to retain valuable employees

  • Supporting employees ultimately improves motivation and productivity.

As the employer, you can decide what to offer as standard bereavement leave and use your discretion to support employees as individuals (provided discretion is applied fairly).


Need help working through all these additional types of leave? Want to get some policies in place to help your business along?

Why not book yourself a complimentary HR Taster Session?

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page