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can I take time off work when my child is sick?

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Can I take time off work when my child is sick?

Karen Bexley MMB Manchester Magazine working mum blogger MLP Law Manchester


By Karen Bexley – MLP Law

What are my rights to taking time off when my child is sick?

Every now and again emergencies happen and when they do, we often need to drop everything and go home to look after our loved ones who have fallen ill and require our care. Children especially are prone to accidents and illness and when this happens, it is important that you know what your rights are in relation to taking time off work.

Do I have the right to take time off?

The straightforward answer is yes. Employees have the right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to take necessary action to deal with unexpected situations affecting their dependants such as a child being off school due to illness who requires care.

Who has the right to take time off?

The right to take off unpaid work to care for dependants only applies to employees and not workers or the self-employed. If you are unsure which category you fall into and whether you are an employee, worker or self-employed then get in touch and we can provide you with some legal advice in respect of your employment status.

In terms of the right for employees to take time off work, this applies to all employees irrespective of their length of service; whether they work full-time or part time or whether they are employed on a permanent, temporary or fixed-term basis. As long as you are an employee and need to take unpaid time off work to care for your sick child, then you are entitled to this right. The right applies to both male and female employees equally and even if both parents work for the same employer, they can still technically both have unpaid time off work at the same time to look after their child as long as it is necessary and reasonable for them both to be off rather than just one.

When can time be taken off?

In terms of under what circumstances time can be taken off in relation to your child, you can take a reasonable amount of time off where it is necessary:

1. To provide assistance if your child falls ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted; or
2. To arrange for the emergency provision of care for a child i.e. where a child’s nanny is ill or nursery is closed.

There is no strict rule as to what a reasonable amount of time is and the law does not limit the amount of time that an employee is entitled to take off. However, what will be deemed as reasonable is generally a few hours if it is a case of making alternative arrangements or possibly one or two days if a particular problem has arisen.

What is defined as necessary will depend on the circumstances of each case and your employer should take into consideration the nature of the incident that has occurred; the closeness of the relationship between the parent and the child and the extent to which anyone else was available to help out e.g. grandparents or the child’s other parent. In general, the right is for time to deal with the emergency situation and make alternative arrangements so for example, by the second/third day of an illness alternative arrangements are expected to be made. This could include requesting holiday leave and/or unpaid parental leave from your employer.

What do I have to do?

Your employer is not a mind reader and any right to take time off work to care for a sick child will only apply if you:

a) Tell your employer as soon as reasonably practicable the reason for your absence; and
b) Tell your employer how long you expect to be away from work if possible.

You are not required to provide any evidence to your employer of your need to take time off work. However, there is nothing to prevent your employer from requesting appropriate evidence from you to support any request such as a child’s sick note, provided that they have reasonable grounds to ask for evidence and do not act in a way that could be viewed as discriminatory.


If you are refused permission to take time off work to take care for your sick child or are treated in a less favourable way for taking time off for this reason, you could make a complaint to an employment tribunal.

However, if this is the case and your employer refuses to allow you to take the time off work, we would recommend that you first try and discuss this with your employer and come to some sort of agreement if possible before considering a more legal avenue.

If you would like further information on dealing with a flexible work request or providing flexibility within the workplace, please contact us at

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