Compassionate and Dependants Leave and Support for Carers - Guidance for Staff and Managers

  1. Introduction
  2. When can compassionate/dependants leave be taken?
  3. Compassionate leave
  4. Dependants leave (normally unpaid)
  5. Pension provisions
  6. Procedures for taking leave

Form: Dependants leave form (Office document, 48kB)

1. Introduction

The Employment Relations Act 1999 sets out legal rights for individuals not to be unreasonably refused a reasonable amount of dependants leave – that is, time off work to take action which is necessary in relation to a dependant. A dependant is defined as anyone who is dependent on the employee for care and may include a partner, child, parent or elderly neighbour. The statutory entitlement is to reasonable leave without pay. The University also has provision for compassionate leave, which is usually paid and normally applies in cases of bereavement, sudden illness of a dependant, or domestic emergencies.

Managers should be aware that the provision of compassionate and dependants leave also applies to members of staff who are carers. For more information on how the University supports carers at work, please refer to the Carers at Work webpages.

2. When can compassionate/dependants leave be taken?

The University is a caring employer and the Appropriate Manager must balance the need to maintain work priorities with the needs of an individual employee potentially at a time of great personal stress. The final decisions lie with the Appropriate 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 manage domestic problems. However, it recognises that there will be occasions which cannot be predicted, leaving individuals with difficulty in achieving the balance between home and work.

The provisions detailed below are available to all staff, and there is no qualifying period of service necessary. The Appropriate Manager is encouraged to consider each case on its own merits, while operating within the broad remit of these provisions seeking advice from HR if required.

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3. Compassionate leave


Time off with pay will be granted at times of family bereavement. As well as covering the immediate time of bereavement, time should also be allowed where necessary to enable the employee to make arrangements with the appropriate authorities, to manage immediate domestic affairs, to make arrangements for the funeral, and to attend the funeral itself.  Appropriate Managers will need to use their discretion to determine what is a reasonable amount of time, depending upon the circumstances.  This is not defined according to the nature of the family relationship but needs to be judged on a case-by-case basis. The “rule of thumb”, however, would be to allow three to five days of compassionate leave (depending on whether the employee is responsible for funeral arrangements etc.), plus time to attend the funeral.

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

Parental Bereavement

Parents[1] who suffer the loss of a child who is under the age of 18, or a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy, have a statutory right to 2 weeks' parental bereavement leave, which is paid at the statutory pay rate for employees with at least 26 weeks' service.  The University has determined that it will enhance the statutory parental bereavement rate to full pay and make this available to any parent who suffers the loss of a child under age 18, or a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy, irrespective of length of service.   In line with the statutory right, this leave may be taken as either a single block of two weeks or as separate blocks of one week during the period of 56 weeks from the child’s death.  In the circumstances of a stillbirth after the 24th week of pregnancy, the employee will also be entitled to full maternity leave and pay.

Line managers should notify the Employee Services Hub as soon as possible regarding any cases of parental bereavement.  The Employee Services Hub will ensure that this is appropriately recorded.

Any requirement for further absence following a bereavement beyond the immediate period of compassionate leave should normally be managed via the sickness absence process.  Individuals in this situation are encouraged to seek support via their GP at the earliest opportunity.  Please contact your HR Team for further advice and support.  Please also refer to the University's Staff Wellbeing pages for further support available to staff

Sudden severe illness

Where a dependant has to attend hospital unexpectedly, time off with pay for that day will be given, to enable alternative arrangements to be made and immediate domestic affairs to be organised.  Managers are expected to manage frequent or regular requests taking account of the impact on service delivery. If further time off is required then the employee should discuss this with the Appropriate Manager to agree arrangements such as annual leave, use of TOIL, working flexibly, unpaid leave, or a combination.

Other domestic emergency

Similarly, time off with pay will be granted to enable immediate arrangements to be made that day to cope with, for example, burglary or fire at home.  Again, Managers are expected to manage frequent or regular requests taking account of the impact on service delivery.

Significant ongoing caring responsibilities

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 for example where there are significant, ongoing caring responsibilities for a very sick parent, partner or child. Work patterns or contractual hours may also be amended temporarily to help the individual to meet such responsibilities.

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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 dependant, including an individual for whom the employee is a main carer (e.g. child-minder falls ill; child is ill and cannot attend nursery; child is taken ill whilst at school or 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.

Managers are expected to manage frequent or regular requests for Dependants Leave taking account of the impact on service delivery.

5. Pension provisions

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

6. Procedures for taking leave

  • Members of staff must seek approval from their manager for any request to take compassionate or dependents leave at the earliest opportunity.
  • 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, 48kB). The form should be authorised by the Appropriate Manager and forwarded to Human Resources.
  • Managers should keep records of compassionate or dependents leave taken.
  • Where an individual is likely to require a long period, or repeated short periods, of compassionate or dependents leave, the Appropriate Manager should consult   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, the Appropriate Manager 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 also 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 or Divisional HR Team.

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[1] Parental bereavement covers all adults with parental responsibility, including birth parents, adoptive parents, individuals who are fostering to adopt and legal guardians.