Having a sick child can be extremely stressful for working mums and dads. Even if it’s just a cough or cold, negotiating time off to care for them can be tricky.

All employees have a right to reasonable time off if their child, or someone else who depends on them, falls ill.

This is called dependants’ leave and can be used to deal with major or minor emergencies. There’s no set time limit, but you can only take as much time as you need to deal with the immediate problem.

Unfortunately, you don’t have a legal right to be paid for this time off. But lots of good employers will voluntarily offer a certain amount of paid “carers’ leave”.

If your employer refuses to grant you leave to care for your child or dependent, you can take action.

But your first step should always be to seek advice from your union rep or another qualified advisor.

Are you a rep? You can find more practical advice on a range of workplace issues in our support for reps section

Common
questions
Can I take time off for urgent family reasons?
All employees the right to dependants' leave. This is a right to reasonable time off work to help a child or other dependant in certain circumstances.
What’s meant by ‘dependant’ for the purposes of dependents’ leave?
A dependant is someone who depends on you for help to deal with unexpected difficulties or emergencies.
What are the circumstances under which I can ask for dependants' leave?
You can request dependants' leave to help a dependant who falls ill or is injured, to make arrangements for the care of a dependant who is ill or injured, on the death of a dependant, where a dependant's normal care arrangements have been suddenly disrupted and to deal with unexpected incidents concerning a child during school time.
My child is sick and I need time to look after him/her, but my employer is refusing. Do I have any rights?
You have the right to take reasonable time off to deal with an emergency involving your child.