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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, Solicitor
Category: UK Employment Law
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Experience:  Expert in UK Employment Law
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Help! Employee constantly taking time off for family emergencies.

Resolved Question:

Help! Employee constantly taking time off for 'family emergencies'. We have a clear Emergency Leave policy but recently they took 2 weeks off with 'emergency' after 'emergency'. We try to accomodate but they are now refusing to work to even more flexible terms and agreed reduced working hours. Tonight they advise they plan to let down a client on Saturday due to another 'emergency' to visit a sick non-dependent relative (non life threatenin). Our client has been let down by the employee three weeks ago too and this is damagaing our business. What can I do?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: UK Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 1 year ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Is the employee acting within the policy you have in place?

Customer:

In short, no. Emergency Leave is just that - time off to cover the emergency then back to work but they take the 'day' or days off to manage them i.e off to have the boiler fixed three weeks ago. The employee works part-time to accomodate schools and is home from the middle of afternoon each day, and off a full day a week too so this could have been managed round work in my opinion

Ben Jones :

ok there are a couple of policies that would cover them - one is your own policy and the other is the legal right to take time off for dependants.


 


You have an internal policy and if the employee wants to take time off in accordance with it then they must adhere to its terms so if you find that they are not sticking to the rights they have under it and are abusing it, then you may limit their reliance of such policy and make it clear that this is not what it is intended for.


 


The legal right to take time off applies only if they are dealing with an emergency with a dependant. This has to be an unexpected event, requiring their presence or assistance, and it must be to do with a dependant of theirs, someone who depends on them, not just any friend or relative. They do not have to provide any evidence but if there are reasonable grounds to suspect they are abusing this right, you may ask them for evidence to show that they are indeed taking the time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant.

Customer:

Thanks Ben, our policy is clear about what is and is not emergency leave. We have repeatedly addressed this with them as they were also booking non-emergency health appointments such as routine dentist checkups, eye tests etc in work time. We have even provided a further letter to specifically state that these appointments cannot be made unless it is for a genuine emergency for themselves or one of their children however again just before the most recent two weeks off they booked a nurse appointment for half an hour after they came to work to check on a whitlow in their finger. It seems every eventually has to been spelt out and then they still ignore it. We are keen to be a family friendly business, not just because the law says we should/must but because we are in the business with working with people in crisis. However this constant (almost weekly) issue is just pushing us to the limit. The communication tonight informed me I could 'sack' them but they will not be attending the appointment on Saturday even though this was a date they agreed with the client's family when they cancelled the other week. I really do not want to 'sack' them but if you have an employee with no regard to their work responsibilities what course(s) of action are open to me as an employer that are fair and reasonable? Sorry for the long reply.

Ben Jones :

How long have they worked there for?

Customer:

a year as of the 6th September - the same day as they started their last two weeks off

Ben Jones :

you can easily sack them as they need 2 years' service to be protected against unfair dismissal, but if you want to send a message first then refuse their requests to take time off that do not fit into the policy's criteria and tell them that they either need to takr the time off as holidays or if they go off anyway it would be treated as unauthorised absence and can result in disciplinary action. If necessary you can discipline them - with a warning or two and can eventually dismiss if needed

Customer:

Thank you. I think that is the course that I had concluded but wanted to have some independent advice. Unfortunately because of this continued issue they had used thier years worth of holiday by June so that's not an option either. I have exhausted that one for them in an effort to help them out. So far to acknowledge the text tonight with simply acknowledgment and I have informed that I am disppointed that the refuse to work their work commitments and I will be following up in writing to set a meeting with them on Monday. Your reply has just helped me consider the wording of my letter to them. Thank you Ben.

Ben Jones :

You are most welcome. Please take a second to leave a positive rating for the advice I have provided as that is an important part of our process. Thank you and all the best

Customer:

Thanks - will do.

Ben Jones, Solicitor
Satisfied Customers: 39017
Experience: Expert in UK Employment Law
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