We all need time off sometimes. Taking a holiday or having time to do things important to us is vital for our well-being. But when you work for a business, you are often bound by rules that restrict how much time you can take away from your duties.

In this article, we will discuss what time off is and what the law says about it. We will focus on both paid and unpaid absences. We will also look at what you can do if you think your employee is breaching your rights. Let’s get started.

What Is Unpaid Time Off?

Unpaid absence, or unpaid leave, is an absence from work that does not qualify for pay. This is often because it is outside the normal leave and absence policy of the business. Examples of unpaid absence can be:

  • For non-emergency medical or dental treatment.
  • To look after children or young people.
  • To move house.

Of course, in each of the circumstances, the employee can if able book holiday leave to cover the absence. In these cases, their employer would pay them.

time off management software from Papershift

Who Is Eligible for Paid Time Off?

Nearly all workers in the UK are eligible for some form of paid annual leave. The statutory allowance for paid time off is 28 days (or 5.6 weeks). Some of these days are mandatory (such as Christmas and Easter) but others will be flexible.

Some companies will offer extra paid time off outside of this statutory requirement. For example, they may offer more annual leave entitlement. Or they may offer bereavement days or moving home days.

What Are the Legal Guidelines for it at Work?

The law that sets the UK annual leave entitlement is the Working Time Regulations 1998. This sets out that all workers except those genuinely self-employed are entitled to paid time off. The regulations class an individual as a worker if he or she has a contract with an employer. As set out in the Working Time Regulations 1998 workers have a right to:

  • Receive pay for leave.
  • Build up (‘accrue’) holiday entitlement during maternity, paternity, and adoption leave.
  • Build up holiday entitlement while off work sick.
  • Request holiday at the same time as sick leave.

The regulations set no provisions for unpaid time off and as such businesses generally employ their own policies.

Do Employers Have to Give Time Off?

If the request for time off is part of an employee’s annual leave entitlement, then yes. They can, however, restrict the timings of the request because of business needs. For example, they may restrict the number of people on leave at any given time.

Other requests depend on the situation. For example, if an employee requests leave to perform a civic duty like jury service, the employer must allow it. If the request for time off is to see a doctor or dentist, then it is up to the employer.

What Are the Typical Reasons for taking off from work?

There are many reasons that an employee may be absent from work, including:

  • Holiday.
  • Medical or dental appointment.
  • Maternity or paternity leave.
  • Bereavement.

Manage staff leave and absences easily with Papershift’s staff leave planner software.

Written by Siva

I write & describe the value & benefits delivered by Paperhift's rota planning, staff time tracking, and employee payroll management software. Especially useful for Shift Planners, Rota Managers, Team Admins, and HR Teams 🙂

Illustration by Olha Khomich from Ouch!