Your Questions Answered

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Your Questions Answered
Q: We have an employee who repeatedly requests time off as “emergency time off to care for dependants”. They claim that every time a child is ill they can take time off work to care for them. The problem is, she has five children and it feels like there is one of them sick each month and it’s always for at least a week! We are beginning to think she’s swinging the lead! What are the rules around emergency time off for the care of dependants?

A: The Employment Rights Act, 1996, entitles employees to take a reasonable amount of time off work, unpaid, so that they can take the necessary action to deal with a situation affecting a dependant. Unhelpfully, there is no definition of what a reasonable amount of time actually means in real terms but it generally means one or two days at the most. The idea is that the employee is faced with an unexpected emergency relating to a dependant and this right is to enable the employee to have time to put alternative arrangements in place.

This provision is only applicable to employees and doesn’t apply to agency workers, consultants or self-employed contractors. The five scenarios when the right to time off for dependants applies are:
  • to provide assistance when a dependant falls ill, gives birth or is injured or assaulted
  • to make longer term care arrangements for a dependant who is ill or injured
  • in consequence of the death of a dependant
  • because of the unexpected disruption or termination of care arrangements for a dependant
  • to deal with an unexpected incident which involves a dependant child whilst they are at school during school hours.
This entitlement cannot be used to provide ongoing care – it’s just to deal with the immediate crisis and make alternative arrangements. It should also not be used to cover a pre-planned event such as a child needing to be taken to the dentist.

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