Paid leave of absence (A brief guide)

In this guide, we will discuss “paid leave of absence”, what it means, what qualifies as paid leave, how to request it and some additional considerations.

Paid leave of absence

A paid leave of absence is considered time off work requested by an employee, while still maintaining your employee status.

It is a fact that people like to have time off work (at least most people do) and it is said to be one of the first things people ask when they are new hires, job candidates or employees. 

The main reasons that can be considered as paid time off are annual leave (holidays), paternity leave, maternity leave, antenatal care, shared parental leave and sick leave. 

You may be considering taking some time off maybe to go on holiday or you have been feeling unwell and you are not sure how to go about asking or knowing what are your rights regarding paid leave.

These are considered two of the most common reasons for employees to be absent from work. 

Regarding sick pay, the UK has a Statutory Sick Pay system that covers employees who are absent from work due to an illness (physical or mental).

Most of the contracts of employment actually include the terms and conditions to proceed in the event of being absent due to sickness. 

However, employees who are dishonest and fake being ill or taking time off for illness are at risk of having a disciplinary process.

In the most severe cases it can result in termination of their contract or dismissal for misconduct.

You may still have other options you could consider even though they are considered as unpaid leave.

This will be useful in the event you do not have enough days to ask for holiday or you are not sick.

Note: “The law gives you the right to take time off work in certain circumstances, but you might not be paid for this time off.

Your rights depend on your employment status.”

Other reasons for time off

Besides having paid leave of absence due to holidays or sick leave, the employment laws provide employees with the right to take leave from work for reasons that include (employmentlaws.co.uk):

  • maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave, and adoption leave;
  • time off for family and dependents;
  • time off for antenatal care in pregnancy;
  • time off to deal with duties as a trade union official;
  • time off to deal with duties as a trade union learning representative;
  • time off to deal with duties as a member or candidate for membership of a European works council;
  • time off to take part in trade union activities;
  • time off for 16/17-year-olds to study for certain educational qualifications;
  • time off during notice of redundancy to seek new work;
  • time off to perform duties as a pension fund trustee;
  • time off to perform duties as a health and safety representative;
  • time off to perform duties as an employee representative;
  • time off to accompany another worker to a disciplinary or grievance hearing where the right to be accompanies applies;
  • time off to perform certain public duties – including service as a Justice of the Peace or a member of a local authority or statutory tribunal;
  • time off while suspended.

Depending on your employer, your contract and sometimes personal circumstances, your employer can determine whether they will grant paid or unpaid leave.

Have a conversation with your line manager or your HR department for more information about it.

Reason: Time off for holidays

We all love going on holiday and some of us can’t wait enough to plan where our next holiday destination will be.

After working so hard and having accumulated a lot of stress during the year we decide it is time to go on some time off.

Employees are entitled by law to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday a year.

Check with your employer’s HR department or your line manager on how to proceed to ask for holidays.

Reason: Time off for public duties

If you are involved in some type of public duties such as being a magistrate, local councillor or a school governor, and you need to take time off work, your employer must allow you to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off work. 

However, you more than likely won’t be paid for the hours you have missed unless your contract states otherwise and you don’t have to make up for the time later on.

Reason: Time off for jury service

Your employer is not legally entitled to give you time off for jury service, but they could be fined for contempt of court if they refuse.

In addition, they don’t have to release you for jury service if it means causing a serious problem for them.

If it is the case, you can ask to postpone your duty but you will still have to do it at a later date. 

As ‘Citizen’s Advice’ recommends, “You can try to negotiate with your employer to find a time to do your duty that’s better for both of you.”

Also, consider how your employer is not obliged to pay you for this time off unless your contract says so and you’ll be able to claim money back from the court to make up for some of the financial losses. 

However, if you are dismissed for doing your jury duty it will automatically be considered as unfair dismissal and you might be able to challenge it but if your employer asked to postpone your jury duty for another time and you didn’t apply then it won’t be considered an unfair dismissal any more.

Reason: Time off for study or training

If you are 18 years of age and you are employed, then you can have the right to ask for unpaid time off to train or study.

However, you need to show your employer your qualification will improve your skills and ability to perform your job duties.

Your employer is not obliged to agree to your request. 

Before you ask your employer check you work somewhere with more than 250 employees and that you have worked for them for more than 26 weeks.

Your employee rights when on leave

If you are taking maternity, paternity, adoption, parental, parental bereavement, or shared parental leave (SPL), your employment rights won’t be (usually) affected, but some employees can work up to 10 paid days or 20 days for SPL, during your leave. 

In addition, these days are called ‘keeping in touch days’ and they are optional (both parties have to agree to them).

If agreed, the type of work and the pay you would receive should be agreed before you go to work.

According to ‘Gov.uk’, “The employee’s right to maternity or adoption leave and pay is not affected by taking keeping in touch days.”

Returning to work from leave

You have the right to return to your job if you take (gov.uk):

  • Paternity leave
  • Only 26 weeks of Maternity or Adoption Leave
  • Only 26 weeks of Shared Parental Leave (between both parents)
  • 4 weeks or fewer of unpaid Parental Leave
  • Parental Bereavement Leave

If you decide to take more leave, you will have the right to your job or a similar job if it is not possible to give you your old job back. 

Why is this blog about paid leave of absence important?

As discussed, paid leave of absence is considered as paid time off work that you can request while maintaining your employee status.

It can be asked under certain circumstances and as it is already stipulated in your employment contract but if you don’t have enough days to ask for paid time off you could also consider some of the unpaid leave options we have mentioned.

Remember to consult directly with your employer by having a conversation with your line manager or your HR department before making a formal enquiry since they can let you know what are your best options according to what you intend or request. 

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about paid leave of absence

Do you get paid when you take a leave of absence?

If you take a leave of absence, it can either be paid or unpaid and it will actually depend on the circumstance.

For instance, a personal leave absence will likely be unpaid but annual leave will be paid.

However, it really depends on the employer since they can (in some cases) determine if leave is paid or unpaid.

How long can you take a leave of absence from work?

There is no specific amount of time you can take a leave of absence from work.

For instance, if you have been sick for 7 days you can return to work without having to certify your absence but if you are going to be off sick for more than 7 days you need a sick note from your GP (sick leave).

Also, if you are going to take a personal absence from work because you have to attend personal matters then you will need to talk to your employer in advance and it is very likely it will be an unpaid leave of absence.

What is paid leave?

Paid leave according to the Cambridge Dictionary is the “time allowed away from work for holiday, illness, etc. during which you receive your normal pay: Management authorized more bonuses and paid leave to honour good work.” 

What does a leave of absence mean?

A leave of absence or simply leave, is considered the period of time you will be away from your job, while you are still considered an employee of the company you work for.

What is a good reason for a leave of absence?

There are several good reasons for a leave of absence, but not all of them might get considered as valid reasons to be absent from work.

Here are some examples of reasons for leave of absence:

– Personal or family health issues.

– Birth or adoption of a child.

– Relief from excessive job stress.

– Loss of a loved one.

– The pursuit of a hobby or wanting to travel.

References 

Employmentlaws.co.uk: “Employment law guide”

Citizensadvice.org.uk: “Time off work-overview”

Gov.uk: “Employee rights when on leave”

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