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Time off work for parents or carers of disabled children

Last updated: 5 Jul 2021

Unfortunately, there is no legal right to additional time off if you have a disabled child, but there are a number of options if you need time off:

Your employer might have their own policy on taking time off which goes above and beyond the minimum required by law. It is always worth checking your employer’s policy, your contract or with your human resources department.

Time Off for Dependants

Employees have the right to take unpaid time off work to deal with an unexpected event involving someone who depends on them. This includes, for instance, a breakdown of care arrangements.

The right to take time off is normally for emergency or unforeseeable circumstances. But knowing in advance that something will happen does not mean that you definitively cannot have the time off for it as long as the leave is necessary. For example, a childminder needing time off next week can count as an ‘emergency’ if you tried but were unable to make alternative arrangements for your children.

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. You also need to try to find alternative arrangements (maybe the grandparents can help? or a childminder?) and keep a record of when you have tried them and why they are not possible

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 or the other parent is active in the care of the child, the time off that is reasonable in the circumstances would take into account the fact that there is another person to share the care. Normally only one parent would be expected to have the time off at once, however where a child is very ill, has an accident or is having a major operation, it may be reasonable for both parents to have reasonable time off.

Parental Leave

Parents of children under 18 can take unpaid parental leave if they have been with their employer at least a year. Parents can take up to a total of 18 weeks altogether for each of their children before the child is 18.

Unless you have a different agreement with your employer, you can be expected to give 21 days notice and be limited to four weeks a year.

Employers can require parents taking parental leave for non-disabled children to take it in blocks of a week. 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.

Your employer cannot refuse you leave or penalise you for taking parental leave. There are circumstances in which employers can postpone parental leave.

Annual Leave

Employees begin accruing their entitlement to paid annual leave as soon as they start with their employer. Part-time workers must have the same entitlement as their full-time colleagues, pro rata.

You must give your employer notice of twice as many days in advance of the first day proposed for leave as the number of days proposed in total (e.g. 10 days notice for 5 days leave).

Employers can restrict when you may not or when you must take your leave as long as they give you sufficient notice (equal to the length of the proposed leave). Although there are regulations limiting some types of business on Christmas Day and Easter Sunday, you do not have a right to take public holidays off, as long as you get the statutory minimum amount of paid holiday.

Full-time workers are entitled to a minimum of 28 days a year, including any public holidays they have off. You do not have a legal right to carry over any unused leave from one year to the next, although many employers allow some carry-over.


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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.