Q&A Am I entitled to take time off work to care for my daughter in an emergency?

Q:        My daughter’s nursery school has closed a few times this year because of staff shortages. As a single working mum this has been difficult to deal with. Previously I have taken holiday to look after my daughter at home, however last time the nursery closed I had no holiday left and my boss refused to pay me for the hours I had off, even though I managed to get care cover and go into work later. He says if this keeps happening, he will have to let me go. Can he really do this? I’ve worked there for over six years.

A:        All employees, whether permanent, temporary, part-time or full-time, are entitled to take time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependent, irrespective of their length of service. A dependent can be a spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent, or someone else who depends on that employee for care.

The amount of time an employee can take off in this situation is not defined in terms of hours, but as ‘a reasonable amount of time to deal with an emergency’. Further, there is no limit to the number of times an employee can take time off for dependents.

‘An emergency’ in relation to disruption of childcare arrangements could be if a childminder fails to turn up to work, or, as in your case, if a nursery closes unexpectedly. ‘An emergency’ does not however include taking time off to deal with care situations previously known about, e.g. taking a child to hospital for a pre-arranged appointment. 

When an employee takes time off to deal with an emergency relating to a dependent, their employer does not have to pay them unless it is written into their contract or is in the company handbook that they will do so. If your boss ‘lets you go’ because of taking time off to deal with a dependent emergency, you need to speak with an employment solicitor immediately.

This question has been answered by James Denton, a Solicitor with GHP Legal.  If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients.  Where possible, we ask that you communicate with us by phone or email. If you have a new enquiry or for an appointment visit www.ghplegal.com or contact one of our offices: Wrexham 01978 291456, Llangollen 01978 860313, Oswestry 01691 659194 

James Denton

James Denton


Solicitor in our Civil Litigation team in the Oswestry and Wrexham offices.