Within any work setting, it’s not uncommon for employees to request time off to attend medical appointments, be it a hospital, dental, optician or any other.
While it’s common practice for them to schedule these appointments outside of their working hours, sometimes this isn’t always possible.
Dealing with staff absences, either scheduled or unscheduled, is a regular occurrence for any HR team.
These absences may be down to a variety of reasons, from maternity to dependant or parental leave to time off for long-term illnesses.
In this piece, we’ll explore time off for medical appointments. It’ll highlight the entitlement of employees and the rules they must follow to meet their legal obligation. It also offers wording you may want to adapt to form part of your absence policy.
Time off for medical appointments law
According to the law, your staff has the right to take time off work during certain circumstances. As well as their normal holiday entitlements, they can take time off to:
- Study or train.
- Have a baby.
- Attend to public duties (jury duty etc.).
- Recover from an illness.
- Look after a child (or children).
- Attend to emergencies (for example time off work for children's hospital appointments), etc.
Although you aren’t legally required to offer paid time off for medical appointments, you may have a contractual obligation to it. If it’s something you’d offer, you must ensure it’s included in your employee’s contract of employment.
You should also include the conditions for requesting this type of absence from work. For example:
- The duration of allowed absence.
- How often they can make this request.
- Whom to inform about the absence.
You may suggest alternatives such as:
- Booking appointments outside of the normal working hours.
- Using your holiday entitlement.
- Making up the time later (time in lieu).
The law differs when it relates to your pregnant employees. According to employment law, they’re entitled to paid ‘reasonable’ time off for medical appointments such as antenatal care. The legislation also entitles the child's father, the woman's husband, civil partner or partner, or the child's intended parent in a surrogacy arrangement to unpaid time off to attend two antenatal appointments.
Time off for medical appointments policy
For consistency, and to eliminate claims of discrimination, you must set out rules regarding absences from work in your employment contract.
However, instead of creating a policy specifically for medical appointment requests, you can create an absence management policy that covers absences for various reasons including attending medical appointments.
Within the policy, you must highlight your employees’ normal working hours as well as the conditions for requesting time off work for medical appointments. This includes:
- The process for making requests includes whom to contact.
- The different types of time off work.
- How far in advance to request time off.
- Who enforces the absence management policy.
- When it’s paid time off and when it isn’t.
Consider the extract below for wording on absences specifically for medical appointments.
*Start of extract*
In consideration of any requests for time off during working hours for these purposes, your line manager shall be expected to approach such requests reasonably, equitably and consistently, with due regard to the employer's need to maintain a healthy and efficient workforce.
Staff should book time off for routine medical and dental appointments outside of working hours wherever possible.
When this is not possible, the responsible manager shall have sole discretion to grant paid time off to attend a medical or dental appointment, dependent on the type of appointment.
The following options can also be considered by managers and the employee who need to attend any medical or dental appointments:
- Annual leave.
- Time off in lieu (TOIL).
- Arranging to work additional hours.
- Changing their work pattern.
- Unpaid leave.
*End of extract*
Disclaimer: This extract is meant to serve as an example. We don’t take any responsibility for inaccurate or inappropriate use of the document in your business.
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