Employees who care for a dependent: where does an employer stand?

 

There has been a rise in the number of mothers in paid work. advo hr takes a look at where the employer stands with employees taking time off to care for a dependent.

The proportion of working-age mothers in paid work has increased by almost 50% over four decades, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS).

This suggests the number of employees who have dependents would have increased.

So, who is a dependent?

  • A spouse;
  • A civil partner;
  • A child;
  • A parent;
  • A person who lives with the employee excluding his/her employee, tenant, lodger or boarder;
  • Any other person who would reasonably rely on the employee for assistance if he/she fell ill or was injured or assaulted, or who would rely on the employee to arrange for the provision of care in the event of illness or injury; or
  • In relation to the disruption or termination of care for a dependant, any other person who reasonably relies on the employee to arrange for the provision of care.

So, what is the position where someone requires to take time off for a dependent?

Firstly, the purpose for the time off for a dependent is limited to the following reasons:

  • To provide assistance when a dependant falls ill, gives birth or is injured or assaulted;
  • To make arrangements for the provision of care for an ill or injured dependant;
  • In consequence of the death of a dependant;
  • Because of the unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant;
  • To deal with an incident that involves their child and occurs unexpectedly while the child is at school/other educational establishment.

The legislation does not place a limit on the number of times or the length of time an employee is off for care of a dependent. Length of service does not play a part in the eligibility of having time off for care of a dependent.

The general process would be for the employee to notify the employer as soon as possible that they need time off to care for their dependent. They should explain the reason for the absence and how long they anticipate to need time off for.

The employee should keep the employer posted with any changes to this situation. Provided the company does not offer more generous terms for this type of leave, employees would not be entitled to be paid for this time off, however all other terms and conditions would remain the same during this time e.g. the employee would still accrue holiday.

If the employee has to extend the time off, at the employer’s discretion they could offer the employee the choice to take discretionary unpaid leave or annual leave.

 

 
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