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Durham University

Human Resources & Organisational Development

Emergency Leave

You are entitled to take a reasonable amount of time off work to deal with certain unexpected or sudden emergencies involving a dependant [1], and to make any necessary longer term arrangements. If you know of the need for time off in advance, emergency leave is not applicable and annual leave should be requested in the usual way.

The University grants up to 5 days paid emergency leave in any rolling period of 12 months to members of staff, to be taken by agreement with their Head of Section. Normally time off in excess of 5 days shall be arranged as unpaid leave, annual leave, or Special Discretionary Leave.

The following examples of circumstances covered by this entitlement are intended to illustrate the appropriate use of emergency leave, and when other forms of leave would apply:

  • If a dependant has a baby prematurely, falls ill[2], or has been injured or assaulted, and to make longer term care arrangements for a dependant who is ill or injured

    For example, if a family member requires medical treatment unexpectedly, emergency leave would be granted for the first day absent from work whilst taking the family member to the hospital or doctors, and whilst making the necessary arrangements for subsequent care. However, if further time off is required to care for the family member (for example, if they are required to stay in hospital or at home for a number of days), it is expected that an arrangement will be made using annual or unpaid leave entitlement.

  • To deal with an unexpected disruption or breakdown of care arrangements for a dependant

    For example, if an unexpected problem with childcare arrangements arises, emergency leave is applicable whilst making alternative arrangements, or providing short term care if immediate alternative arrangements could not be made. If it is necessary to provide care after the first day, it is expected that annual or unpaid leave will be used.

  • To deal with an unexpected incident involving the employee's child during school hours

    For example, if a member of staff is contacted by their child's school regarding an unexpected serious incident, emergency leave would apply whilst attending the school, and if necessary to provide immediate care for the child on the first day. However, if the child continues to be absent from school, it is expected that any time off work to provide further care would be taken as annual or unpaid leave.

An employee must inform their department of the reason for their absence, and how long they expect to be away from work, as soon as reasonably practicable.

Leave to care for a sick dependant will require the support of a medical certificate, appointment card, doctor's note, or note on a compliment slip from the organisation confirming an appointment.

Each department is responsible for completing their monthly absence on the Leave and Absence Management System (LAMS), and any emergency leave should be noted.


[1] A dependant may be someone who reasonably relies on the employee for assistance, for example, when the employee is the primary carer or the only person who can provide assistance. A dependant is also the husband, wife, civil partner, child or parent of the employee, or someone who lives in the same household (not including tenants, boarders or employees).

[2] The illness or injury need not necessarily be serious or life threatening, and may be mental or physical.