Introduction to this document

Domestic emergencies policy

Occasionally, employees may suffer from genuine, unforeseen domestic emergencies, such as burst pipes, heating systems breaking down, house fires, lightning strikes and burglaries. There’s no statutory right to time off work in these circumstances but our domestic emergencies policy provides for you to grant limited time off at your discretion. 

No statutory right

Whilst there is a statutory right for employees to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to deal with unexpected emergencies relating to dependants, this right does not cover domestic emergencies where serious issues arise with the employee’s home. Thus, any time off that is granted in these circumstances is entirely at your discretion, unless you agree that the employee will take the time off as part of their annual leave entitlement. Likewise, if you do grant time off for domestic emergencies, it’s up to you to decide how much you’re willing to grant and whether you will pay the employee. However, you do need to ensure that you’re applying your rules consistently amongst your staff.

Policy provisions

Firstly, our Domestic Emergencies Policy makes clear that it’s only intended to cover unforeseen emergencies. It doesn’t cover dealing with routine and planned domestic issues such as domestic repairs, house refurbishment, home deliveries, the installation of new appliances etc. If you extend your policy to cover these issues, you’re opening a whole can of worms as your employees will never be at work! Secondly, the time off granted is discretionary and will only be sufficient to help the employee resolve the immediate crisis. This is likely to be a day or two at most and could even be less than a day in many cases. If it is less than a day, once the immediate emergency has been taken care of, the policy provides for the employee to return to work. Thirdly, the policy states that any time off is unpaid and so any payment of salary is made at your absolute discretion. Finally, the policy sets out clear provisions for reporting domestic emergencies, both those arising during and outside working hours, and enables you to request evidence of the emergency on the employee’s return to work, including disciplinary sanctions in cases of dishonest claims.