We all have situations in our lives whereby something unexpected happens and we need to drop everything in order to deal with that particular personal challenge. Whether it be a loved one having an accident or falling ill, or a last-minute and unavoidable childcare issue, these predicaments are a natural part of life and affect all of us.

How you as an employer choose to deal with these situations can add to the bank of goodwill from your team. As a result, they will pull out all of the stops when the business most needs it, damage the employment relationship or worst still create unrest and feelings of inequality amongst the team, potentially landing the organisation with a claim for discrimination.


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Whilst there is no legal requirement to have a policy on Compassionate Leave, clarifying the organisation’s position in black and white can help to ensure all parties are clear about what process needs to be followed in such circumstances and what the employee can expect to receive by way of support, both in time and/or financially.

You as employers are not legally obliged to offer paid time off for Compassionate Leave; however, employees in the UK do have the right to take “a reasonable amount of time” off to deal with an emergency involving a dependent (a spouse, partner, child, parent or someone who depends on them for care, for example).

As such, it may be useful to clarify within your policy as to what the company deems as “reasonable” over a period of 12 months.  Will this time be paid or unpaid, and what will happen when the Compassionate leave limit has been reached?  Remember that consistency is key and if you reserve the right to apply your discretion on a case by case basis, be clear on the parameters by which you apply your discretion in order to avoid a claim for discrimination.

If you would like help with drafting your Compassionate Leave Policy or have a situation that you would like to chat through, please call us on 01473 360160 and a member of our friendly team will be happy to speak with you.