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Special Leave Policy




1.    Introduction

The University is committed to developing work practices and human resources policies that support work-life balance. 

In support of this commitment, the University has developed a range of additional leave options to help employees take time away from work for reasons that do not necessarily fall under existing leave provisions, such as domestic emergencies and public duties.

All requests will be dealt with on a strictly confidential basis and the rights of employees under the Employment Relations Act 1999 to be granted reasonable unpaid time off work to deal with an emergency involving a dependant have been taken in to consideration. 

The right to request to work more flexibly, which is available to all employees who meet the requisite criteria, is dealt with under the Flexible Working Policy.

This policy and procedure is not intended to be prescriptive and therefore each request should be considered on its own merit and decisions to authorise leave will be at the discretion of the appropriate line manager/Head of School/Unit.

The provisions made within this policy apply to all employees irrespective of length of service, hours of work, job family or grade.

2.0       Types of Leave

2.1       Time Off for Dependants/Carer’s Leave

Whilst, each member of staff is responsible for ensuring they have appropriate care mechanisms in place to meet their personal needs, the University will endeavour to assist in circumstances where these arrangements have unavoidably broken down, or where additional unforeseen pressures arise for which time off may be required.

All employees will be allowed reasonable time off of up to three days per rolling year to provide care and attention to dependants or to deal with an unexpected event involving a dependant. This may include:

  • caring for ill dependants or accompanying them during an unexpected appointment/stay at hospital;
  • making longer term care arrangements for the ill or injured;
  • breakdown or unexpected disruption in care arrangements;
  • incidents at school.

Reasonable time off will be granted for as long as it takes to deal with emergencies or unexpected events.  For example, if the employee’s child falls ill, time can be taken to deal with their initial needs, such as taking them to the doctor and arranging for their care.  However, time off will not be granted for an employee attending a routine or pre-planned doctor/hospital appointment with a dependant and annual leave should be taken in such circumstances.

2.2       Compassionate Leave

The University recognises that employees may be faced with difficult personal circumstances involving the serious illness or death of a dependant.  The University understands that, during these situations, employees may need to take time away from work and may require additional support.

Individual circumstances, the nature of relationships and the required observances of different religions may vary.  Therefore, rather than being prescriptive on the situations under which compassionate leave is available, each case should be assessed individually by the line manager or Head of School/Unit who should take the following into consideration:

  • the relationship between the individual and the employee
  • the nature and extent of any illness
  • whether the employee is involved in making funeral arrangements
  • whether there may be a requirement to travel or attend a funeral

Line managers have the discretion to grant up to five days paid compassionate leave to employees who need to care for a dependant who is seriously ill or following the bereavement of a family member or friend.  The manager, in discussion with Human Resources, may decide to extend this by up to a further week of paid or unpaid leave.  Thereafter, depending on circumstances, a manager may agree a period of annual or unpaid leave.

For example:

  •  Death of immediate family member (e.g. mother, father, spouse, son or daughter) or responsibility for arranging funeral – variable depending on the circumstance but normally up to five days.
  • Death of relative/friend (attending funeral) – variable depending on the circumstance but normally up to one day.


2.3         Time Off for Other Emergencies

The University will be sympathetic to a reasonable request for time off to deal with critical domestic emergencies not involving dependants and not covered by other types of leave.  This may include fire, flood or theft at home.

This leave is intended to be a short-term solution to enable employees to remedy their individual situation.

Line managers have the discretion to grant up to three days paid leave to employees.  The manager, in discussion with Human Resources, may decide to extend this by up to a further week of paid or unpaid leave.  Thereafter, depending on circumstances, a manager may agree a period of annual or unpaid leave.

2.4       Hospital/Clinic Appointments

When it is not possible to make appointments with GPs, Dentists and Opticians out with work time, then these appointments should be made at the start or end of the working day in order to minimise disruption.  On occasion, employees should make arrangements with their manager to make this time up if a longer appointment is required.

Reasonable paid time off will be granted to allow employees to attend hospital/clinic appointments subject to the discretion of the line manager.

In line with the Policy and Guidance on Trans Staff and Students Staff, trans staff are able to attend clinic appointments and have time off for surgery and recovery.

The University reserves the right to ask for evidence of the appointment e.g. hospital letter, appointment card.

2.5       Attending Court as a Witness/Jury Duty

Employees who attend Court as a witness or those called for jury duty will be granted leave to attend. The employee will have their salary adjusted accordingly but should claim loss of earnings from the Court.  An employee should receive an expenses claim form from the Court where they can normally claim loss of earnings, subsistence allowance and travelling expenses.  Details of the amount the employee claims for loss of earnings must be forwarded to the Salaries Office to enable the appropriate adjustments to be made to the employees’ salary.

2.6       Adverse Weather Conditions

Employees may be granted reasonable time off when they are prevented from attending work due to adverse weather conditions.  Various options are available for this and further guidance can be found in the Adverse Weather Guidance procedure.

2.7       Essential Civic or Public Duties

There are other types of leave available where employees are required to perform essential civic or public duties.  The legislative requirement for this is contained within the Employment Rights Act 1996. 

All employees will be allowed reasonable time off work to undertake public duties on a case by case basis.  The line manager will consider the amount of time off required, time already granted for this purpose and the business continuity of the service.

The public duties that are covered by the existing legislative provisions are as follows (source

  • a magistrate, sometimes known as a justice of the peace
  • a local councillor
  • a school governor
  • a member of a policy authority
  • a member of any statutory tribunal (e.g. an Employment Tribunal)
  • a member of the managing or governing body of an educational establishment
  • a member of a school council or board in Scotland
  • a member of the General Teaching Councils for England and Wales
  • a member of the Environment Agency or the Scottish Environment Protection agency
  • in England and Wales, a member of the prison independent monitoring boards or in Scotland, a member of the prison visiting committees
  • a member of Scottish Water or a Water Customer Consultation Panel

Where ‘no loss of earnings’ compensation is offered by the relevant public body, the employee is required to inform the Salaries Office and their salary will be adjusted accordingly i.e. this will be classed as unpaid time off.

Employees should advise both Human Resources and their line manager before first entering into such commitments and discuss the extent of the commitment and the implications for their work.

2.8       Members of the Reserve Forces

Employees who are members of the Volunteer Reserve Forces (Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Marines Reserve, Territorial Army or Royal Auxiliary Air Force) will normally be granted two week’s additional paid leave per year.  Reservists will be required to inform their line manager and provide copies of any documentation prior to the leave being approved.  Existing reservists are also expected to inform the University of their next re-engagement.

Recruits to the volunteer reserve forces are required to inform the University of their status as reservists to ensure that the University is better informed as to its obligations to employees, also, to enable managers to plan adequately for their absence and ultimate return.

2.9       Trade Union Duties

Reasonable time off with pay during working hours will be granted for trade union officials for the purpose of carrying out trade union duties or undertaking training in relation to trade union duties for a trade union recognised by the University.

Reasonable time off with pay during working hours will be granted for Union Learning Representatives for the purpose of carrying out related duties or undertaking relevant training for a trade union recognised by the University.

Further details can found within the agreement - Recognition of and facilities for trade union duties and activities at

Employees who are TU members and wish to attend meetings during work time should request approval for the time off from their line manager.  This time will be unpaid or should be worked back subject to the agreement of the line manager.  A degree of flexibility, from both parties, will be required here as it is not always possible to have meetings during lunchtime for various reasons.

2.10     Organisational Change

Reasonable time off with pay during working hours will be granted in situations of organisational change where the employee has been displaced, in order that they can attend for interview both internally and out with the University.

Further information about redeployment and redundancy can be found within the respective policies at

2.11     Miscellaneous

It is recognised there may be exceptional situations where the University requests that employees do not attend work for a specified, or sometimes unspecified, period e.g. for health and safety reasons or in situations requiring business closure such as a pandemic flu outbreak.  In such situations, employees will be expected to attend work unless the University announces a closure and ensuing contingency plans.  Employees will be notified accordingly and possible alternative working arrangements will be discussed and considered where appropriate.    Payment will dependent on the circumstances but employees should note that the adverse weather guidance will be followed in the first instance if employees are unable to attend work.

3.0       Notification and Evidence

It is understood that situations may arise where it is not be possible for the employee to provide notice of time off.  On these occasions, the employee (or where this is not possible, someone on their behalf) should inform their line manager (or designated School or Service Administrator) as appropriate, as soon as possible, on the first day of absence of the reason(s) for the absence and how long they may expect to be absent from work. 

Where employees require the day off in an emergency, in most cases the time off will be granted and the classification of the leave (annual, special, unpaid, etc) will be discussed when the employee returns to work. 

Special leave will not be granted automatically and the employee will normally be given the day off for an emergency with the understanding that they must discuss the matter with their line manager upon their return to determine whether special leave can be authorised. 

It should be noted that special leave is not a statutory entitlement and is at the discretion of the individual line manager.  Should special leave not be authorised or deemed appropriate, then employees may be have the option of using annual or unpaid leave.

In some cases, documentary evidence will be required in order to process the special leave such as Court attendance e.g. jury service summons.  Failure to produce such evidence may result in the special leave being denied.

4.0       Payment, Terms and Conditions

Special leave will normally be paid.  In some cases, where this is not appropriate or the special leave has to be extended, this will be unpaid.  This will be agreed between the line manager/Head of School/Unit and the employee.

5.0       Other Options

The use of special leave does not preclude the use of alternatives to taking unpaid leave and employees may consider using one or more of the following options when taking leave:

  • Annual leave e.g. where time off is half a day or more
  • Career Break Policy/Sabbatical Leave
  • Flexible working or arranging to work up additional hours e.g. where time off is less than half a day
  • Changing working patterns or arrangements on a short-term basis such as swapping shifts, lectures or working from home where possible

All other contractual terms and conditions continue to apply during periods of special leave.  Longer terms of special leave and unpaid leave may impact upon pension contributions and in these circumstances, the employee should contact Human Resources to discuss the matter further.

6.0       Consistency and Reporting

Managers should adopt a fair, consistent and sympathetic approach in applying this policy and procedure ensuring they have taken all the facts in to consideration and discussed the matter with Human Resources, where appropriate.

It is important that all absences under this policy and procedure are recorded and notified to Human Resources.  Please see attached form at Appendix 1.

Any salary adjustments will be made via a notification from Human Resources to the Salaries Office.

Human Resources can provide further advice and guidance in regard to this Policy and procedure.


Special Leave Application Form (Word, 48 KB) 

Human Resources

May 2012