Dependant care leave, domestic emergency and bereavement leave policy


The University is committed to equality of opportunity in employment for all its staff and to developing work practices and People Directorate policies that support work-life balance.

The University’s dependant care, domestic emergency and bereavement leave arrangements cover a range of exceptional circumstances which may effect employees and extend in the appropriate circumstances the statutory right of employees, as set out in the Employment Relations Act (1999), to take reasonable unpaid time off work to deal with an emergency involving a dependant and to make any necessary longer term care arrangements.

The University recognises that managers will need to balance the requirements of the service with the needs of an employee at a time of personal stress or a serious family emergency and understands that a prompt and thoughtful response to requests from employees is important in maintaining good working relationships.

The aim of this policy is to inform employees and managers of employment rights relating to dependant care leave (including time off for dependants) domestic emergency leave and bereavement leave and to provide a framework for the decision making process.

Dependant care leave

a. Emergency leave involving any dependants

Dependant care leave is designed to support staff where the emergencies are related to a dependant. A dependant could be a spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent, or someone who depends on you for care.

Employees have the statutory right, no matter what their length of service, to take reasonable unpaid time off work to deal with an emergency involving a dependant. This leave is intended to cover genuine emergencies and there is no set limit as to the number of times an employee can be absent from work under this right.

A dependant is defined by the statute as “the partner, child, or parent of the employee, or someone who lives with the employee as part of their family. It does not include tenants or boarders living in the family home, or someone who lives in the home as an employee. In cases of illness, injury or where care arrangements break down, a dependant may also be someone who can reasonably be said to rely on the employee for assistance“. For instance a parent or grandparent who lives elsewhere but who relies on the employee for assistance when they have difficulties or an elderly neighbour living alone who falls and breaks a leg, where the employee is closest on hand at the time of the fall.

Statutory leave may be granted to an employee for the purpose of dealing with a situation involving a dependant such as for example:

  • A child or dependant who is sick, injured or assaulted
  •  An adult for whom a employee cares where no other arrangements can reasonably be made for someone else to look after the person
  • A serious incident involving a child at school
  • A serious illness involving a dependant
  • A child or dependant whose usual care arrangements are unexpectedly disrupted

Dependant care leave will not be granted to deal with predictable domestic arrangements that could be accommodated using annual or flexi-leave (for example regular childcare and childcare during the school holidays).

b. Planned leave involving dependants with a long-term care need

In addition, from 6 April 2024, employees can request up to a total of one week (5 days pro rata) unpaid statutory carer’s leave in any 12-month period to provide or arrange for the care of any dependants with a long-term care need. A long-term care need is defined as a physical or mental illness or injury that needs care for more than 3 months, a disability, or a care need because of old age. Carer’s leave does not have to be for an emergency. 

Carer’s leave is unpaid. It can be taken in half days or full days. Employees must give notice of their intention to take carer’s leave, giving the longer of at least twice the amount of notice than the period of leave requested or three days' notice.

If it would be seriously disruptive for business needs then managers can postpone a leave request to another date within one month of the original start date requested. Managers should consult with their link People Manager before postponing. Once agreed, they should give the employee notice of the postponement within seven days of the original request and before the leave was due to begin, explain to them why postponement is necessary and consult them about rescheduling to another time.

c. Discretionary cases

Alongside these statutory rights to unpaid leave, Deans/Directors, or their nominated deputies, have discretionary authority to grant up to five days paid dependant care leave per year. Circumstances falling within the statutory permissions may be considered for this purpose. Each case will be considered on its merits, using the principles outlined below. Applications for dependant care leave beyond this limit (up to a maximum of 10 days per year) must be referred to the People Directorate. Any further leave may also be granted as flexi, annual or unpaid leave.

The University recognises that circumstances and the nature of relationships vary. Therefore rather than being prescriptive on the situations under which dependant care leave is available each case should be assessed individually and should take into consideration the following factors to determine whether a request is granted:

  • The seriousness of the situation
  • The age of the person
  • The extent to which the person can cope on their own
  •  The nature and extent of any illness
  •  The availability of others to look after the person
  • The relationship between the person and the employee

Employees must report their absence to the responsible person within their Faculty or Directorate as soon as is reasonably practicable. They also need to advise of the reason for their absence and how long they expect to be away from work.

d. Pay and recording for dependant care leave

For all unpaid dependant care leave, including carer's leave, managers should contact the People Directorate Operations Team.

Discretionary paid dependant care leave should be authorised by the Dean/Director or a nominated deputy, and recorded by the line manager in the new Absence functionality on People XD. 

Leave for a domestic emergency

Leave for a domestic emergency is designed to support staff where the emergencies are unrelated to children or dependants.

Deans/Directors, or their nominated deputies, have delegated authority to grant 1 day of paid leave per emergency recorded using the guidelines below. Any further leave should be taken as flexi, annual leave or unpaid leave.

Examples of an emergency include:

  • A road accident or other similar accident involving the employee
  • The breakdown or theft of the employee’s car
  • A burglary at the employee’s home or a violent crime or involving the employee
  • Fire or flooding at the employee’s home.

This list is not exhaustive.

In determining whether request for leave should be granted the following factors should be taken into consideration:

  • The nature and extent of the emergency
  • The availability of others to deal with the emergency
  • The likely impact of the emergency on the employee

This leave is intended to cover genuine emergencies. If a employee knows in advance that they are going to need time off for a domestic issue (for example in the case of delivery of goods to the employee’s home) they should ask for leave in the normal way.

Any leave taken must be recorded on the employee’s leave card.

Bereavement leave

Employees are entitled to up to 5 days bereavement leave with pay on the death of a partner, parent or child.

The University recognises that circumstances, the nature of relationships and the required observances of different religions vary. Therefore rather than being prescriptive on absolute periods of leave in other cases, there is a need to assess each case individually. Because of this the paid leave periods given below are for guidance only. Each case should be assessed depending on its own particular circumstances.

Up to 5 days paid leave may be granted to employees who have experienced the death of a partner or immediate family member. If an employee has to make funeral and/or other arrangements a further period of up to two days will generally be granted for these purposes at the discretion of the Dean of Faculty/Director. If the employee has to travel a long distance to attend/arrange the funeral then, depending on circumstances, further additional time off to allow for travelling may be granted.

Employees who need only to attend the funeral of a relative or close friend will normally be granted reasonable time off with pay. In most instances this will be a period of up to one day. However if the employee has to travel a long distance to attend the funeral of a close relative then depending on circumstances additional time off to allow for travelling may be granted.

Any leave taken must be recorded on the employee’s leave card.

Note: From 6 April, 2020 staff are entitled to two weeks parental bereavement leave in line with legislation following the death of their child. For further information please contact your link People Directorate team. More details of this legislation will follow shortly.

Refusal of leave

Staff who feel that they have been unreasonably refused the right to dependant care, domestic emergency or bereavement leave or who feel that they have been victimised for requesting leave should, in the first instance raise the matter with their line manager and inform their link People Manager. They can also consult with their union and have the right to raise the matter through the grievance procedure.

Any complaints related to dependant care, domestic emergency or bereavement leave will be recorded by the People Directorate and reported to the Work-Life Balance Steering Group. They will be monitored, with the aim of bringing about consistency between Faculties and Directorates in the way that policies related to work-life balance are implemented throughout the University.

Last updated March 2024