Written by: Cally Worden
The laws on time off work can be open to a degree of interpretation by your employer and individual rights will often depend on the specific terms of your employment contract. That said, there are some rules that all employers must abide by. We seek to demystify some of the basics here.
Looking for a New Job
If you are simply fed up with your job and want a new one, then you have no right to time off for your job search. If, however, you are being made redundant it’s a different story. During your notice period you are entitled to pay for reasonable time off to look for another job, but this will only apply if you have been in continuous employment at your current company for two years at the point your notice expires. Some exclusions may apply and ‘reasonable time-off’ is open to interpretation. In principle though this is an entitlement that should be upheld by your employer.
Caring for Dependents
Your dependents may include anyone who depends on you for care or assistance, most typically a spouse or partner, parents or children. By law, you can take a reasonable amount of unpaid leave to deal with an emergency relating to a dependent, such as an accident, unexpected illness, disruption of pre-arranged care, or a funeral. That familiar word ‘reasonable’ crops up again here and in this instance would generally be taken to mean a day or two.
Medical Appointments and Caring for Non-Dependents
There are no automatic rights in existence to cater for these scenarios. Your employment contract may cover such eventualities so do check. In the absences of any guidance it’s always worth asking your boss if time off would be possible and if it would be paid or unpaid. Employers may use their discretion in this respect.
Current UK law states that almost all full-time employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid holiday each year. That equates to 28 days for employees working a 5-day week. Bank Holidays may be included in this total at the discretion of the employer. In most cases your employer has the right to control when you take your leave and can order you to take it all at once. Check your employment contract to see if you are entitled to additional days and what provision is made if you don’t take all of your days in any 12 month period.
Taking a Career Break
Employers are not obliged to offer career breaks but many larger employers now offer a sabbatical policy. This gives employees the chance to indulge in a career break while retaining the option to return to their job at the end of an agreed period. Even if such a policy does not exist you can seek to negotiate a career break with your boss, highlighting the potential benefits to you both.