Sometimes it’s inevitable. You’re about to process your largest order or commence a time critical project when you are informed the day before that one or more of your employees will not be in for part of the day due to a medical/dental appointment.
This guide explores your rights and legal obligations in relation to allowing your team time off work to attend doctor /dentist appointments.
1. Do employees have a right to time off to attend doctor or dentist appointments? You are not legally required to allow employees time off work to visit the doctor or dentist unless their contract of employment says they are.
2. So how can I manage this? You could devise a policy which requests that employees make doctors or dentist appointments outside of normal working hours or if this is not possible to make sure the appointments are made at either the beginning or end of the working day to minimise the impact on productivity. You should also request proof of the appointment such as the appointment card or letter.
3. What if it is a medical or dental emergency? Such emergencies requiring urgent attention will often mean that the employee is not fit to attend work, so are likely to fall under sickness absence and should be managed in accordance with your sickness policy.
4. What if the employee is pregnant? Pregnant employees have a statutory right under the Employment Rights Act 1996 to paid time off work to attend antenatal appointments made on the advice of a doctor, midwife or nurse. However, you are able to require the employee to produce proof of the appointment such as requesting to see the appointment card.
5. What if the employee has a disability such as diabetes or asthma and the appointment relates to this condition? The Equality Act 2010 makes it clear that it is not discriminatory against other employees to give special treatment to a disabled employee. Therefore, even if it is not your normal practice to pay employees who take time off to attend medical appointments, it may be reasonable to make payment in the case of an employee with a disability.
In most cases, taking a fair and pragmatic approach will mean that your employees will reciprocate this goodwill by demonstrating a willingness to go the extra mile for you at a time when you may need it the most.
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