Home Advice for Parents & CarersTime Off for Parents and Carers Time off work for medical or other appointments

Time off work for medical or other appointments

Last updated: 5 May 2022

Unfortunately, there is no legal right to time off when you have to accompany your child to an appointment. In some circumstances, you may be able to use some other form of leave set out below.

You should check your employment contract or employer policy – they may offer more generous benefits than the legal minimum.

Time Off for Dependants

All employees have the right to take unpaid Time Off for Dependants to deal with an unexpected event involving someone who depends on them, including caring arrangements.

Your employer cannot penalise you for taking the time off, provided your reasons are genuine. You must inform your employer as soon as possible that you need time off and how long you think you’ll be absent. There is no official upper limit on how much time off you can have for such an emergency, although it must be reasonable in the circumstances.

If you are part of a couple, the time off that is reasonable in the circumstances would take into account the fact that there is another person to share the care. The legal right to take time off is normally for an emergency (e.g. if your child is ill and you need to take them to the doctors urgently). But, knowing in advance that something will happen does not mean that you definitively cannot have the time off for it.

If you know in advance about your child’s appointments, it is unlikely to be considered as an emergency. However, if at any time there is a breakdown in care arrangements (i.e. you are the sole carer for your daughter and you cannot make alternative arrangements for her to be cared for), then it may be reasonable for you to have this time off if it is necessary.

Parental Leave

Parents of children under 18 can take unpaid Parental Leave if they have been with their employer at least a year. You can take up to 4 weeks a year per child, up to a total of 18 weeks altogether for each of their children before the child is 18.

Ordinarily, you must take parental leave in blocks of one week. But parents taking parental leave for a disabled child (who is entitled to Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment) can take it in blocks of a day.

You need to give your employer 21 days notice that you intend to take parental leave. Your employer cannot refuse your leave, but they can postpone your leave for up to six months where the business would be particularly disrupted if the leave were taken at the time requested. They must give you notice of the postponement in writing (no later than seven days after you gave notice to take parental leave) stating the reason for the postponement and the new beginning and end dates of the period of leave. The length of the new period of leave should be the same as your original request.

If your employer refuses to allow you to take up to 4 weeks of parental leave per child per year, or unreasonably postpones your parental leave, you should seek further advice as you may have a claim. You may also wish to consider the taking following steps.

Other options

Request flexible working

If you have to attend appointments frequently, you can request a reduction in hours with your employer if this would allow you to balance work and attending appointments with your child. If your employer does not agree to your informal conversations, you can put in a formal flexible working request.

However, your employer has three months to decide and could refuse if it would have a detrimental impact on their business. You should also bear in mind that if successful, your flexible working request will automatically result in a permanent change to your working conditions – so if you only want the change to be temporary, you should make this clear in your request.

Annual leave

Your employer may also allow you to take some annual leave. The benefit of this is that it would be paid at your full salary.

Special leave

Some employers offer special leave, such as a form of compassionate leave for special circumstances. If you can take negotiate to take a period of special leave, then this could be a good option. Whether special leave is paid or unpaid is determined by your employer’s policy or practice.

Financial support

If your income has dropped because of taking unpaid leave this may mean that you could claim some form of financial support. For more information, see our articles on Benefits and Tax Credits.

This advice applies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details.

If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.

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The information on the law contained on this site is provided free of charge and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. If you are not a solicitor, you are advised to obtain specific legal advice about your case or matter and not to rely solely on this information. Law and guidance is changing regularly in this area.

We cannot provide advice on employment rights in Northern Ireland as the law is different. You can visit the Labour Relations Agency or call their helpline Workplace Information Service on 03300 555 300.