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Time off work in emergencies

If you look after someone there may be times when you cannot go to work because there is an emergency involving the person you look after. You might be worried because you're not sure what you should do in this situation, but you may be entitled to time off work for such emergencies. This means you have peace of mind knowing that if the worst should happen, you can be there to support the person you look after.

To use this right to time off, you must inform your employer as soon as possible after the emergency has happened. You cannot be victimised or dismissed by your employer for requesting time off in emergencies.

If you think you have been treated unfavourably because you have used this right, seek further advice from your trade union or contact the ACAS Helpline. This helpline provides free and confidential employment advice. You can also contact ACAS if you are unsure whether you are an employee, for instance if you are on a short-term contract, or employed through an agency.

Who is a dependent?

'Dependent' refers to the person you look after. A dependent includes your husband, wife, partner, child, parent, or someone living with you as part of your family. Others who rely on you for help in an emergency may also qualify.

What counts as an emergency?

Situations where leave might be taken are:

  • a disruption or breakdown in care arrangements
  • when the person you look after falls ill, has been assaulted or in an accident (including when the person is emotionally hurt or upset rather than physically injured)
  • to make longer term arrangements for a dependent who is ill or injured (but not to provide long-term care yourself)
  • to deal with an incident involving a child during school hours
  • to deal with the death of a person you look after.

Other information and advice

Contact the ACAS Helpline which provides free and confidential advice on all aspects of employment rights.

Carers UK have advice and information on your rights in the workplace as a carer, and maintaining a balance between work and your responsibilities as a carer.
The also run an advice service and telephone advice line on all carer issues.

The Carers Trust offer advice to carers on employment issues.

The Employers for Carers organisation is committed to promoting the rights of carers in the work place, and stresses that it makes good economic sense to look after employees who are also looking after someone away from the work place.

Last updated: 16/08/2021