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Emergency time off

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Catjellycat, Oct 23, 2018.

  1. Catjellycat

    Catjellycat Occasional commenter

    My father has become unexpectedly and quite severely unwell. I am not working in a school at the moment but I essentially took last week off of my current job to be with him in hospital etc. My mum is too upset and panicked to be taking anything on board so I'm needed as ears if nothing else.

    He is going to have major surgery next week and again, I will take the time to be with him. How would this have worked if I had been in school, teaching? I think at some point I'd like to go back into schools but this sort of stuff always worried me.

    My son is also due a minor surgery in the next month and my experience with that sort of stuff when I was in school was always ''can't someone else look after him?"

    How understanding have your workplaces been to such life events? Tough? Limited? Someone I worked with was called to local shops from school as her dad was having a major heart attack and people knew him and where she worked. That was the Monday. By the Wednesday, the head asked why she still needed to be at hospital with him.
  2. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    you are entitled to three days compassionate leave per parent, or two weeks if you are the individual tasked with organising the funeral.

    In practice, it depends on the head teacher. I once was allowed to attend a funeral for an ex colleague, and I know a teacher who was refused permission to attend the funeral of her sister.

    In the end though, nobody can force you to obey your employer, you can just take the time off that you need and take the consequences back at school.

    I once accepted being turned down for leave, now I bitterly regret it, and wish I had just gone anyway, I can't think why I thought that long-since-resigned-from job was more important than my family
  3. hhhh

    hhhh Star commenter

    I know of someone who said he got signed off for stress so he could take time off when an ex-partner was ill. Complicated, as some of us can feel far closer to a person we aren't 'supposed to' be as close to as a parent. This man genuinely felt too stressed to work with the situation, and I know that if someone I loved was having surgery, I might well not feel up to managing a class of teenagers.
    However, some would argue we should not call it stress-that it is a natural reaction and does not need to be dealt with by a doctor. I don't know, and would suggest teachers seek union advice.
    Probably the answer is that it just depends on what kind of a person is running your school.
    dunnocks likes this.
  4. peapicker

    peapicker Star commenter

    You have a right to Dependant Leave by law, to deal with emergencies, though it is unpaid unless the employer chooses to pay you. Typically this would be a day or so, to be able to make other arrangements, but there is no set rule and individual circumstances may dictate that longer is appropriate e.g. if you have sudden care needs to put in place. The law states 'reasonable' time off and this will vary according to circumstances.

    For planned time off, like for your son's operation, there is a right to Parental Leave.



    So sorry to hear about your dad. A worrying time for you and your mum. I hope he is better soon.
    JohnJCazorla, nomad and agathamorse like this.
  5. Lucilla90

    Lucilla90 Occasional commenter

    This definitely depends on the individual headteacher. Some cite the rule book, others are more human.

    I’ve known heads who said ‘come in when you can’ and arranged cover internally when someone close was fatally ill and others who monitored every moment people were visiting sick relatives. Citing the rule book about who you are allowed to be off for and how long.
  6. peapicker

    peapicker Star commenter

    No, it definitely depends on the law. Headteachers who refuse can have legal action taken against them.
  7. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    What @peapicker said and helpfully posted the links for!

    Gov website no less. Therefore unarguably authoritative.

    Some HTs may not know or choose to ignore their legal responsibility as an employer but that does not validate their behaviour.
    agathamorse likes this.
  8. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    In practice, in my experience, most HTs will be far more generous than any law as they know the quality of teaching by someone (say) who's parent is dying or undergoing major surgery will be less effective (to say the least). In a number of schools I saw colleagues allowed days or weeks off (in one case 2 terms- parent with terminal cancer lived abroad).
  9. sunshineneeded

    sunshineneeded Star commenter

    There are guidelines - three days compassionate leave for close family member, etc - but in practice it depends on individual HTs. Most HTs will take a number of factors into consideration - length of time at the school, absence record, whether a person is generally flexible to meet the needs of the school, etc. The time off may be granted as paid or unpaid, depending on these factors and the length of time needed.
    Despite all we read which leads us to think otherwise, the majority of HTs are very much human and do care about their staff. This time last year I had to have half a term off to be with my daughter who was very sick and in hospital for over a month. My Head was totally supportive and insisted on a phased return when I was ready to come back.
  10. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    When my father died, I was simply sent home by my HT and told to come back when I could. I didn't even ask - he told me!
  11. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Same experience for me... (I got a phone call at school to say he'd died suddenly. I will never forget the kindness shown to me that day...)
  12. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Law is as stated by peapicker and you also need to look at your school's leave of absence/compassionate leave policy. School policy cannot give less than legal minimum but can, and school policies usually do, give you more entitlement than the law requires. For family bereavement typically it's "at the headteacher's discretion" to give flexibility according to circumstances. As others have said how head's use their 'discretion' varies a lot from one head to another, although they should use it in a consistent, non-discriminatory, way. Some are more compassionate than others.

    Also at head's discretion whether paid or unpaid.

    Is that your school's policy entitlement? It's very generous compared to any other I have seen. It's not a legal entitlement though.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2018
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  13. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Here's the example from the gov.uk website (bottom). It all hinges on "emergency". And, I have to be honest, what the OP describes doesn't actually constitute an emergency.

    You feel you ought to be with your mother. But it isn't an emergency. Not in my book.
    Your son's operation is an elective procedure. Not an emergency.

    You could ask for unpaid compassionate leave but, in these two cases, I see no entitlement. They certainly do not constitute an emergency. Parental leave might cover your son. I suppose it may depend on his age. It's possible some HTs might just pay you. They don't have to. Not in these two instances.


    If your child falls ill you could take time off to go to the doctor and make care arrangements. Your employer may then ask you to take annual leaveor parental leave if you want to look after your child for longer.
  14. TrueFaith

    TrueFaith Occasional commenter

    My sister died last year, I took the day after the accident off to see her before she died, and was basically told to take my time regarding returning.

    I took three days off the following week, and when I went to arrange time off for her funeral, I was told that I would need to take an extra day for travelling either way.

    Whilst other things about that school were incredibly tough to bear, I was very well looked after when this happened.
  15. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    exactly, a friend was refused permission to attend the funeral of one of her ex husbands relatives last year, because it was not a "close enough" relationship.

    Never mind that this individual had been the person to welcome her to the UK when she immigrated to her husbands country, hosted her and supported her in lieu of blood relatives for twenty years, and cred for her through her divorce and beyond, was in fact the ONLY person in the world she could call family.

    And do they trust you to judge for yourself whether it is appropriate or not to take time off for a particular relationship.

    I went to my head about an ex colleague from a different school once, his response was " you wouldn't be asking if you didn't need to go"
  16. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    might well be, but even a trivial medical procedure, even for an adult, might require an adult to accompany them home in a taxi, some hospitals don't discharge without that.
    sabrinakat likes this.
  17. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    And this is exactly the way that most decent HTs will behave.
  18. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    A death is a genuine emergency! In my career? 32 years? Never any quibbles about a death.

    But supporting an ageing mother who's struggling? I would definitely be querying that. Also the son's op. Depending on his age. If he's 17? I'd be asking if anyone else could go.

    Bear in mind I was never HT, never SLT, never anything above Scale I Music (old days). But I was union rep. I fought within the rules. I'd hold out for your rights. I'd campaign for more rights.

    In these cases? I'd go with you to the HT to plead for unpaid leave.
  19. HelenREMfan

    HelenREMfan Star commenter

    I was always grateful to a HT who allowed me 2 days to travel to London to be with my younger who had been assaulted on a train one evening going home from work.

    I took very little time off when my mother died and until the latter year of my time at the school my attendance record was good. I did however take a sick day to go to the funeral of my friend, her daughter almost being part of our family, and really there was no way I could not have gone to that funeral. However I didn't go to my uncle's funeral - my elder daughter took my mum and as I was never informed by their niece/nephew re my aunt's passing, I have never been able to visit their graves as my daughter had no clue where my uncle's took place !
    There was some grumbling on the staff when a teacher, close friend of the head, was off school 2 weeks after the death of their (much loved) dog. Not me I add as I fully understood how much that dog was their child....... but on the other hand I could understand why some not so favoured felt aggrieved.
  20. Geoff Thomas

    Geoff Thomas Star commenter

    I think this needs to be pasted at the top of the board.

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