Compassionate and Dependants Leave Guidelines and Procedures

  1. Introduction
  2. Policy
  3. Compassionate leave (normally paid)
  4. Dependants leave (normally unpaid)
  5. Other arrangements
  6. Pension provisions
  7. Procedures for taking leave

Form: Dependants leave form (Office document, 67kB)


1. Introduction

These guidelines have been drawn up in response to the Employment Relations Act 1999, which for the first time sets out legal rights for individuals not to be unreasonably refused a reasonable amount of time off work to take action which is necessary in relation to a “dependant”. “Dependant” is defined as a partner, child, parent or person living in the same household, except by reason of being an employee/tenant/lodger or boarder. This is a legal right to leave without pay.

However, the University has long had informal provisions in place for allowing staff to take compassionate leave (ie time off with pay for employees who are having to cope with emergency situations within their immediate family, eg partner, children, parents, parents-in-law). The provisions have also covered somebody for whom the employee is the main carer. The time allowed is to enable individuals to cope with immediate practical difficulties and to set up any arrangements that might need to be made.

These guidelines and procedures, therefore, take account of both existing provisions and the new legal rights regarding leave for “domestic” reasons.

2. Policy

The University is a caring employer and the Head of School or School/Section Manager must balance the need to maintain work priorities with the needs of an individual employee at a time of great personal stress. The final decisions lie with the Head of School or School/Section Manager, but Human Resources is available to advise on particular circumstances to assist consistency across the University. It is recognised that a sensitive, prompt response to employees’ needs is essential for good employee relations.

Generally, the University expects staff to make their own arrangements to meet domestic problems. However, it recognises that there will be occasions which cannot be predicted and which leave individuals with difficulty in achieving the balance between home and work.

In exceptional cases, Heads of School or School/Section Managers can exercise discretion as to whether limited time off with pay might be appropriate where dependants leave is required, although the expectation will normally be for this to be unpaid. Compassionate leave, within the limits described, will normally be paid.

These provisions are available to all staff, and there is no qualifying period of service necessary.

Heads of School or School/Section Managers are encouraged to consider each case on its own merits, while operating within the broad remit of these provisions.

Requests for compassionate or dependants leave will not be unreasonably refused.

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3. Compassionate leave (normally paid)

Bereavement

Time off with pay will be granted at times of family bereavement. Heads of School or School/Section Managers should use their discretion to determine what is a reasonable amount of time, depending upon the circumstances. Time should be allowed to enable the employee to make immediate arrangements with the appropriate authorities, and manage immediate domestic affairs, in addition to any time necessary to attend the funeral. While it might appear desirable to specify how many days paid leave are granted depending upon the family relationship with the deceased, in reality each case needs to be judged in accordance with the particular circumstances. The “rule of thumb,” however, would be to allow between three to five days compassionate leave, plus time to attend the funeral.

Time off with pay will also normally be granted to allow attendance at funerals of the extended family, close friends or colleagues.

Paternity leave

For partners who have 26 weeks service as at the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth, the University will provide two weeks paid paternity leave, including the day of the birth. Partners will be eligible to take this paternity leave during the period immediately after the birth/homecoming of each child.

Sudden severe illness

Where a dependent has to attend hospital unexpectedly, or requires total care at home, a reasonable amount of time off with pay will be given, to enable alternative arrangements to be made and immediate domestic affairs to be managed. The normal maximum permitted is two days.

Consultant appointments

Whilst the normal expectation is that GP and dental appointments will be made at a time outside normal working hours for part-time staff, it is recognised that full and part-time staff should be given reasonable paid time off to attend NHS consultant appointments which cannot generally be easily arranged/changed.

Other domestic emergency

Time off with pay will be granted to enable immediate arrangements to be made to cope with, for example, burglary or fire at home. The normal maximum permitted is one day.

4. Dependants leave (normally unpaid)

Unexpected interruption in normal care arrangements

A reasonable amount of time off without pay will be allowed where there is an unexpected interruption in normal care arrangements for a dependent (eg child-minder falls ill; child is ill and cannot attend nursery; elderly parent is too ill to attend day care). The purpose of the time off is to enable alternative arrangements to be set up, with the normal expectation that the member of staff will return to work on the next working day.

Incidents involving child at school

Where a member of staff is called to deal with an incident involving a child for whom they are the parent or legal guardian, at a time when the child is normally at school, a reasonable amount of time off without pay will be allowed. The normal expectation will be that the member of staff will return to work on the next working day.

5. Other arrangements

In addition to the provisions above, Heads of School or School/Section Managers should always give consideration to providing as much flexibility as is reasonable where individuals are dealing with particularly difficult domestic circumstances. For example, compassionate leave may be supplemented by some unpaid or annual leave, or an extended period of unpaid leave or a career break may be appropriate where there are significant, ongoing caring responsibilities for a very sick parent, partner or child. Work patterns may also be amended temporarily to assist the individual to meet such responsibilities.

Members of staff who are also caring for elderly, ill or disabled dependants should contact their HR Manager if they believe they should be entitled to paid leave for example, to take a dependant to a doctors/hospital appointment or to be present during any home visits

6. Pension provisions

During any period of unpaid leave taken under this policy, pension contributions will be maintained by the University.

7. Procedures for taking leave

  • Members of staff must advise their manager of their need to take compassionate leave or dependants leave at the earliest opportunity, giving notice wherever possible.
  • Where an employee is unexpectedly unable to attend work, arrangements must be made to ensure that the employee, or someone else, advises their manager as early as possible on the first day of absence. The reason for absence and the likely duration should also be provided. The employee should contact their manager again if the absence is going to continue beyond the first day.
  • If an employee is called away during the working day, they must advise their manager that they are leaving the premises. The employee should contact their manager again if the absence is going to continue beyond the first day.
  • When taking dependants leave, the member of staff should complete the Dependants leave form (Office document, 67kB). The form should be authorised by the Head of School or School/Section Manager and forwarded to Human Resources.
  • Where compassionate or dependants leave is requested or taken, Heads of School or School/Section Managers may seek such evidence as is reasonable to ascertain the full circumstances.
  • Heads of School or School/Section Managers may wish to keep records of compassionate or dependants leave taken.
  • Where an individual is likely to require a long period, or repeated short periods, of compassionate or dependants leave, the Head of School or School/Section Manager should consult the Director of  Human Resources to agree a maximum period of paid or unpaid leave in any 12 months. In some circumstances, a career break may be appropriate.
  • Where abuse of compassionate or dependants leave is suspected, Heads of School or School/Section Managers may undertake reasonable investigations that could result in disciplinary action, in accordance with the University’s normal procedures. Where such action is taken, possible sanctions will include the removal of the right to paid compassionate leave.

Guidance and advice on the application of this policy and procedure should be sought from your Faculty HR Manager.

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