If it is an emergency, you have the right to take unpaid leave for a short period of time. For example, if your child is ill and you need to take her/him to the doctors urgently, you could take this emergency leave (called Time off for Dependants). You must let your employer know what is happening and get back to work as soon as you can.
Some employers do allow a number of days per years as carers’ leave or emergency leave, and they may pay for it, but they do not have to pay you for this time unless it is in your contract.
Another way you may be able to take this time off work is by taking parental leave. You have the right to parental leave if you have worked for your employer for at least one year. You have the right to take 18 weeks per child until the child is 18. However, your employer doesn’t have to let you take the whole 18 weeks at once.
Normally you have to take parental leave in blocks of a week, unless you have a child entitled to Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) when you can take it a day at a time. You should give 21 days notice to take parental leave. If there is a Workforce or Collective Agreement in your workplace, different rules for taking parental leave may apply.
Remember that your employer is allowed to give you better rights than the law says, so for example they may let you give less notice to take your parental leave, or they may let you take parental leave a day at a time even though your child is not disabled.
Parental leave is unpaid but in some circumstances you can claim benefits during your parental leave. You would need to meet all the other conditions.
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.