Employment Update Family leave 0608

18 June 2008

Section 57A Employment Rights Act – time off for dependants – is intended only to cover crises in terms of absences of up to one week.

In Cortest v O'Toole the claimant asked for 'one or two months' off to deal with a domestic crisis - he had three small children and his partner had left home. His employer suggested that he could resign and come back when the crisis was over. It is not clear whether he did in fact resign or was dismissed. It seems that, if dismissed, it would have been a fair dismissal for 'some other substantial reason justifying dismissal'. However the key point is that the claimant tried to argue that he had the right to take time off for dependants under s57A because of 'unexpected disruption... of arrangements for the care of a dependant'. The EAT said that this section was intended to cover crises in terms of absences of up to one week and to ask for a month off was far too long.

Point to note –

  • In such a situation, an employee would be better advised to ask for compassionate leave or consider making a flexible working request under the 2002 Regulations.
Employment Group