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[email protected] - Time off for dependants

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Issue - 6 February 2003

The Times Law Report has published the first Employment Appeal Tribunal case on time off for dependants under section 57A Employment Rights Act 1996. In Qua v John Ford Morrison (Solicitors), Ms Qua claimed automatically unfair dismissal for having exercised the right to dependant's leave in order to take time off work when her child was unwell. In its judgement, the EAT helpfully lists a series of precise questions which should be asked when determining whether an applicant has the right to claim automatically unfair dismissal in these circumstances.

Key Dates:

The EAT decided that the case should be sent back to the Employment Tribunal for rehearing taking into account the EAT's findings. It is unlikely that this particular case will be appealed further.


This case has laid down some important guidance for employers when considering whether an employee should be allowed to exercise the right to time off for dependants. In addition, it gives some useful advice on factors which should be taken into account when considering what is a "reasonable" amount of time off work. As regards this latter question, employers should always take account of the employee's individual circumstances and consider such factors as the nature of the incident, the closeness of the relationship between the employee and the dependant as well as the extent to which anyone else is prepared to help out. Disruption or inconvenience to an employer's business are irrelevant factors. Crucially, the EAT held that an employee is not entitled to unlimited amounts of time off work.


Interested employers are advised to read the EAT's guidance contained in the judgement. This includes seven points made by way of general comment and also four questions which should be asked to determine whether the dismissal of an employee for taking such time off work is automatically unfair. The case can be accessed on the Greenwoods website. Note that there is also useful general guidance on the DTI website 

If you would like clarification on this issue or need advice from a member of the Employment and Employee Benefits Team regarding the impact on your business, please contact me by email or telephone on 01733 887703.

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This update is for information purposes only and does not intend to represent legal advice. Given that employment situations have their own particular facts and issues, you should seek legal advice before relying on the contents of this update.

February 2003




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