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Time Off Work

In certain situations the law gives employees a right to take time off work. However the employer is not always obliged to continue paying an employee during these periods away from work. Certain types of leave and time off work can be taken with pay, specified in relevant legislation. Employers may choose to pay employees that take time off where there is no statutory obligation to do so, but this is purely a matter of agreement between the employer and employee. The contract of employment may provide specifically for pay during absences, or a part of a period of absence, when there is no statutory obligation to do so.

  1. Entitlements to PAID time off work include the following:-

    a. Time off to have a baby.

    In respect of a baby due on or after 1 April 2007 the mother (if an employee) is entitled to take 52 weeks maternity leave. She will also, subject to certain conditions, be entitled to receive up to 39 weeks Statutory Maternity Pay (see link). The amount of the maternity pay will depend on the actual usual wages the mother has received. An employer may provide a contractual enhancement to the relevant STATUTORY maternity pay entitlement. Since April 2015 it has been possible for the mother to share the paid time off work, under the Shared Parental Leave provisions. The mother must take the first 2 weeks of the leave (which is the compulsory maternity leave period), but the rest can be shared, subject to both parties giving the appropriate notices to their respective employers. 

    b. Time off for fathers and civil partners

    The father of a new born baby may, subject to meeting certain criteria, be entitled to take up to 2 weeks paternity leave, after the birth. Paternity pay can be paid to the father, - again subject to meeting certain qualifying criteria. Again the rate of pay may not be at the employer’s normal rate, depending on the terms of the contract of employment.

    c. Time off when adopting a child

    Subject to meeting certain criteria en employee may be entitled to take time off work as Statutory Adoption Leave when adopting a child. The precise amount of time off the employee can take depends on when a child is “matched” with him/her for adoption. For those employees that have had a child placed with them for adoption on or since the 1st April 2007 the total adoption leave period is 52 weeks. If the adopting parent is one of a couple only one person within that couple will be entitled to take Statutory Adoption Leave. However, if that employee’s partner is taking Statutory Adoption Leave the other member of the couple may be able to take paternity leave instead. This right applies to both heterosexual and homosexual couples that adopt a child. The amount of statutory Adoption Pay that such an employee may receive is calculated in the same way as statutory maternity pay, and the prise amount in any particular case depends on the amount that the particular employee has been paid.

    d. Holidays

    All workers have the right to paid holiday. The right is for 5.6 weeks paid holiday per year. So, based on a normal 5 day working week most full time employees are entitled to take 28 days paid holiday per year. It is important to note that this 28 days entitlement can include Bank Holidays. In order to be sure of the exact entitlement it is essential that an individual checks the precise terms of their contract of employment (in particular to see how the Bank Holidays are to be treated). Part time workers are entitled to paid holiday on a pro-rata basis of the standard statutory amount. The contract of employment (see PAYG Contract of Employment) can provide for a greater paid holiday entitlement, and often will with regard to senior members of staff.

    e. Time off to Perform Trade Union Duties

    An Official of a trade union which is “recognised” by his/her employer is entitled to take reasonable time off to perform trade union duties. This extends to an employee that is leaving his/her responsibilities as a trade union official. For a trade union official, and leaving official, the right to pay during the time off will arise. Where the pay for that employee does not vary with the amount of work done then that employee should receive pay at the usual rate as if he/she had worked during the time taken off work. If the employee’s pay does vary according to the amount of work done, the amount of pay should be calculated by reference to the average hourly earnings for that work.

    In addition, trade union officials are entitled to take a reasonable amount of paid time off work to accompany a worker at a disciplinary or grievance hearing, so long as the trade union official is concerned is certified by the union as being capable of acting as the worker’s companion in the hearing. In this particular situation the right to PAID time off whether applies WHETHER OR NOT the particular union is “recognised” by the employer. However, the trade union official and the worker he/she is accompanying must be employed by the SAME employer for the right to PAID TIME off to apply.

    f. Time off to look for work or make arrangements for training when the current role will become redundant

    Certain employees that are under notice of dismissal on the grounds of redundancy must be allowed to take reasonable time off, during THEIR NORMAL WORKING HOURS, to look for new employment or training for future employment. In order to qualify for this right the employee must have been employed for AT LEAST 2 YEARS by the date on which the notice is due to expire, or the date on which it would expire had the statutory minimum  notice period been given ,whichever is the LONGER. Subject to a set maximum the employee will be entitled to be paid at his/her usual hourly rate for time taken off searching for other work. This is to be calculated by the amount of one week’s pay divided by the number of normal working hours in a week. If the number of hours the employee works varies, then an average over the period of 12 weeks up to the week before notice was given should be used in this calculation.

    g. Time Off for Safety Representatives

    Employee safety representatives are entitled to paid time off to perform their duties and undergo training in relevant health and safety matters.

    h. Time off for Occupational Pension Scheme Trustees

    Employees that are trustees of an occupational pension scheme have the right to paid time off to perform their duties as trustee and to undergo relevant training. This right does NOT depend on the particular employee having first worked for any minimum period for the employer.

    i. Time Off for Certain Employee Representatives

    An employee that is a staff representative for information and consultation about redundancies or business transfers under the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations, has the right to paid time-off to perform his/her duties as a representative. Similarly an employee that is an information and consultation representative, in a European Works council, or a member of a special negotiating body under European-based consultation arrangement is also entitled to take paid time off to perform his/her duties.

    j. Time Off to attend Ante-Natal Care

    A pregnant employee is entitled to take paid reasonable time-off work to attend ante-natal care appointments.

    There are a number of reasons for which an employee may take time-ff work for which the law does not oblige the employer to pay the employee. As indicated earlier, the employer may chose to pay the employee during some or all of the time taken off for these reasons, but it is not obliged to do so.
  2. Entitlements to UNPAID time off work include the following:-

    a. Time off for parental leave (see link)

    This is not the same as paternity leave. This can apply to the mother or father of the child. The entitlement to time off for this purpose is subject to certain qualifying conditions.

    b. Tome Off to attend to Domestic Emergencies

    Employees are entitled to take reasonable time off work to deal with UNEXPECTED problems or emergencies, involving certain close family members, and any other person that depends on them.

    For these purposes “close family” members include a child, spouse, civil partner, or parent. The right extends to cover attending anyone who depends on you, such as an elderly or disabled relative or neighbour. The nature of the reason for taking time off includes:-

    i. Providing assistance when a dependant falls ill,

    ii. Making arrangements for the provision of care for a dependant who is ill or injured,

    iii. Time off in consequence of the death of a dependant

    iv. UNEXPECTED disruption or termination of care arrangements, and

    v.  To deal with any unexpected incident involving a child of the employee while attending school or under the control of school.

    c. Time off to attend to various public duties.

    This includes dealing with certain public duties that the particular employee may have. For example, this includes people involved in public duties as:-

    i. School governors,

    ii. Magistrates,

    iii. Local authority councillors,

    iv. Members of police authorities,

    v. Member of a statutory tribunal,

    vi. Member of an NHS Trust, or Health Authority, or Primary Care Trust,

    vii. Member of a board of prison visitors.

    d. Jury Service

    Although there is no statutory obligation on an employer to allow an employee time off to attend to jury service, the prevention of a person from attending as a juror amounts to a contempt of court. Therefore employers ought to allow employees reasonable time off work for the purpose of jury service. An individual can delay jury service  once in a 12 month period, but must then say when they will be available to attend. An individual can ask their employer to seek to delay their jury service if their absence would seriously harm the business. In such a case the employer will need to write to explain how the absence of that particular employee will cause such harm. 
  3. There has since October 2014 also been a right for some people to take unpaid time off work to accompany a pregnant woman at up to 2 ante-natal appointments. This applies to the father of the baby, the spouse of the pregnant woman, the expectant mother's civil partner, or partner (of either gender) in an enduring relationship with the expectant mother. There is no qualifying period of employment required for this right.   


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