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Introduction to this document

Leaves of absence policy

In addition to annual leave, sickness absence and the various statutory rights to time off (for example, maternity leave, parental leave, paternity leave, time off for dependants, etc.), employees might ask to take time off work for a variety of other reasons, including jury service, public duties, armed forces reserves duties, medical and dental appointments, compassionate leave or other unpaid leave. A leaves of absence policy statement aims to cover all those various time off work scenarios not already covered by other rules.

No statutory right

There is currently no statutory entitlement for employees to take special leave, nor is there a right for them to be paid for any special leave granted. It’s therefore up to you how far you want to go in granting leave and pay for armed forces reserves duties, on compassionate grounds (although there is a statutory right to reasonable time off for dependants), for medical and dental appointments (antenatal appointments are subject to specific statutory provisions granting paid time off), for study purposes, as a career break, etc. You can select which statements you want to add to your Leaves of Absence Policy statement or you can add further statements should you wish to do so. That said, you may be in contempt of court, and be putting your employee in contempt too, if you refuse to grant them time off for jury service and instead force them to attend work (although jury service can be deferred in certain, limited circumstances) and employees do also have a statutory right to unpaid time off relating to the carrying out of certain public duties. In addition, preventing an employee from using their annual holiday entitlement to take time off for a religious holiday could amount to indirect discrimination on the grounds of religion unless you can objectively justify your decision on business grounds. Our policy provides for religious holidays to be taken out of annual leave entitlement whilst at the same time making clear that being granted the time off as annual leave is subject to the terms of your Holidays Policy and business need, and so isn’t an automatic right. We’ve also covered the sensitive subjects of granting time off for elective surgery, gender reassignment or fertility treatment.

Unpaid leave

If you grant an employee a period of unpaid leave, or a sabbatical, be aware that they will normally continue to accrue continuous service, unless you have expressly provided for continuity of employment to be broken by the absence - see the terms of our career breaks and sabbaticals provision. This means they will also continue to accrue at least statutory annual leave, although, unless you have provided otherwise, they cannot generally carry forward untaken annual leave from one holiday year into the next.