Posted on Apr 01, 2015 in Employment by Amy Jones
The Independent reported last week that employees have been requesting compassionate leave to cope with the news Zayn Malik has left One Direction!
For those of us who remember, it bears a startling similarity to when Robbie Williams left Take That and when Boyzone and Westlife split up.
How should employers handle such requests?
There is no statutory right to compassionate leave. In any event, this is it not a situation in which an employer may consider granting compassionate leave. The closest thing would be time off for dependants under which employees have a right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work when it is necessary to:
(a) provide assistance when a dependant falls ill, gives birth, is injured or assaulted;
(b) make longer-term care arrangements for a dependant who is ill or injured;
(c) take action required in consequence of the death of a dependant;
(d) deal with the unexpected disruption, termination or breakdown of arrangements for the care of a dependant (such as a child-minder falling ill); and/or
(e) deal with an unexpected incident involving the employee’s child while a school or another educational establishment is responsible for them.
Unsurprisingly, the 1D situation hardly falls into any of these categories nor is Zayn going to be someone’s dependant!
Although an employer is not obliged to grant compassionate leave, in practice many do give a period of paid leave in the event that a close relative of the employee dies or becomes critically ill. If an employer does have a practice of granting compassionate leave, it is recommended that they have a policy which sets out:
Under what circumstances compassionate leave will be granted, e.g. bereavement or illness in immediate family.
An upper limit on how much compassionate leave is available per incident.
Whether leave is unpaid or paid.
Neither of these options for time off would apply to 1D fans (unless of course Zayn is a member of their immediate family, which is unlikely!). Accordingly, employers can refuse such requests. If employees really feel unable to attend work due to this “tragedy” (excuse the Steps reference), employers could offer to let them take holidays or unpaid leave if it would be convenient for the employer’s business. In extreme circumstances, employees may be too ill to come to work but being upset that a 1D band member has left is not the same as being unfit for work through illness or incapacity.
If an employee’s requests for holidays or time off are refused and the employee does not attend work, i.e. unauthorised absence, or an employee phones in sick and an employer genuinely believes they are not ill, an employer should follow their usual disciplinary or absence management procedures.
Amy Jones is a specialist Employment Law Solicitor. We are always delighted to talk without obligation about whether we might meet your needs. Call Amy on 01382 229111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org