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Time off for Dependants

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TIME OFF FOR DEPENDANTS
In the recent case of Clarke v Credit Resource Solutions, the employment tribunal held that an employee was subjected to a detriment and unfairly dismissed for exercising the right to take time off to care for dependants.
Mr Clarke (C) and his wife (A) worked for Credit Resource Solutions (the Employer) whilst A’s mother looked after their children. On the day in question, A’s mother could not look after their children so C sought to make other arrangements. C was 30 minutes late for work and refused to sign a late form confirming that he was late and that 1 hour’s pay would be deducted from his salary. C asserted that he was being penalised for having to make emergency arrangements for the care of his children. An hour’s salary was subsequently deducted from C’s pay. C complained to the finance manager who in turn complained to management about C’s behaviour.
C was suspended from work and invited to a disciplinary hearing where he was told that unless he signed the late form, provided a written apology and accepted a final warning, he would be dismissed. Again C refused and he was dismissed for gross misconduct, this being his failure to carry out duties or reasonable instructions and the use of threatening behaviour.
C brought a claim that he had (a) suffered a detriment; and (b) been unfairly dismissed for exercising the right to take time off for dependants under section 57A of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
The employment tribunal held that:
 C had validly exercised the right to take time off for dependents
 C had suffered a detriment by having an hour’s pay deducted for being 30 minutes late and for being put under pressure to sign the late form
 C had been unfairly dismissed for refusing to sign the late form. In particular, the employment tribunal commented that the Employer had a staff handbook which included a Time off for Dependant’s Policy. This policy stated that the right to time off was unpaid, but that, depending on the circumstances, discretion might be exercised to pay employees. This was not adequately communicated to employees, as evidenced by the fact that none of the witnesses were aware of the policy.

  • Practical Tips
     Check that your managers and decision makers are familiar with your policies relating to absence and in particular that they understand the rights employees have to time off for unexpected situations regarding their dependants
     Make sure you can demonstrate that all new policies are adequately communicated to staff.
    If you require any specific advice in connection with the material contained in this bulletin, or on any other Employment Law issues, please contact: Paul Chamberlain in Manchester on 0161 836 8864, Andrew Cross in Liverpool on 0151 600 3062 or Kevin James in Preston on 01772 229847.
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