Are part-time employees entitled to time off for a funeral.

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birdofprey | 07:30 Sat 20th Aug 2011 | Civil
22 Answers
A close friend has just left us.

My wife wants to attend the funeral.

She works part-time as a Doctor's receptionist.

One of the other girls was refused permission to attend the funeral of her Mother-in-law. There was no question of her demanding to be paid as she offered to take it as unpaid leave. Still they refused!

It is not possible to call in sick as the deceased was known to many others at the practice.

What is the legal position - can they sack her if she goes to the funeral against their wishes?


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As a business owner I would never prevent my staff from going to a funeral no matter who it was. If it were me, in your wife's position, I think I would take the day off sick. Has she any holidays she can take?

I have looked on the directgov website but it doesn't say anything about funerals. I wouldnt have thought they could sack her but I am sure others more qualified than me will be on soon! I hope it gets sorted for her and sorry to hear about your friend x
This is not good - I can understand people being cautious about requests to attend distant funerals, but your mother-in-law?! Who calls the tune at this surgery, is it the practice manager, or does the GP make this sort of decision?
I know that many surgeries have different contracts of employment as they are all individual business/employers, and it will be up to the terms and conditions as to whether people can request time off - or indeed make it up at a later date. However, we are still in holiday periods and it could be that the request was refused (legitimately) because there was nobody else to cover reception - so we may not have all the story.

Sadly I'd say, yes - taking time off without permission (or in the face of refusal for leave) is a disciplinary offence, although I would hope that sense would prevail.

Why don't you have a look at the ACAS website? They offer free and impartial advice on all employment law matters.
-- answer removed --
That's a thought Helen, but not all contracts will specify emergency leave - ours do, we can take domestic leave for something like four days in any twelve month period. I suspect this is to do with leaving the surgery short-handed - but it's not very employee-friendly.
There are some standard contracts for GP staff on the web, but I must emphasise that not all surgeries use them. I've just looked at one and the unpaid leave section says:

Unpaid leave, other than for parental, dependant or maternity purposes is normally granted only when the employee has exhausted his or her annual leave entitlement. This type of leave is discretionary and permission from the practice manager/[ named partner ]* must be obtained before it is taken. Unpaid leave may be granted only in exceptional circumstances if and when the needs of the practice allow.

So yes - permission for requests for funerals (if that contract applies) is discretionary, and only if there are other staff to cover.
Has your wife asked any of the other staff to change shifts for the day? I wouldn't have thought employer could complain providing they have sufficient cover.
Your wife is not entitled to take time off for a close friend I'm afraid. In fact there is no legal right at all to have time off for funerals even for your child, husband or wife
Tell her to take a look in her employee handbook to see what it says in that
Overthetop's idea of swapping her shift is a good one and one more likely to be upheld by her employer
That's terrible that they would not allow someone to go to their mother-in-law's funeral! shocking!
It may be shocking but it is not unlawful - employers can decide when and if to let staff have time off depending on business requirements and circumstances.
It is also pretty poor form to suggest to someone that they should call in sick, vodkancode - especially as you state you are a business owner yourself. Mind your your 'business'.
Well all I can say is I have never been refused leave for a funeral and I would never do it to anyone else. That's my perogative as a business owner. I maybe shouldn't have said she take a day off sick. I apologise...very irresponsible! I did ask in the next sentence if she had any holidays she can take though!
Forgive my scepticism, pink_kittens, but not every employer has an employee handbook, we don't have one ourselves, we have to thrash about on the internet looking for all the various policies.
That's very true boxtops, merely a suggestion in the hope of getting the op's wife the day off. She stands on thin ground really as it is not a close relatives funeral and just because there may be a policy that covers it somewhere on the internet does not mean the employer, yours or the op's, has to follow it
Best place to look is the web site for any legal requirements, sadly for funerals, there are none
How awful that the time off isn't offered automatically and gracefully.

Unfortunately there is no legal requirement to offer compassionate leave, its just good practise, nor is itthe employees right to take leave at short notice, but again in these circumstances it would be poor practise not to.

Myself, I'd just tell them I wasn't going to be in on that day or half day as I was attending a funeral and see what happened. Pretty sure the worse that can happen is she will lose the money for the time she was off.
Although not helpful in the case of a friend's funeral, pink-kittens is incorrect with the statement "...there is no legal right at all to have time off for funerals even for your child, husband or wife".

If you are an employee, you have the right to unpaid time off work to deal with emergencies involving a 'dependant' – this could be your husband, wife, partner, child, parent, or anyone living in your household as a member of the family. A dependant may also be anyone who reasonably relies on you for help in an emergency, for example an elderly neighbour living alone who falls and breaks a leg and you are the closest on hand.

When a dependant dies, you can take time off to make funeral arrangements, as well as to attend a funeral.
a funeral is not an emergency though, sadly
"the deceased was known to many others at the practice." Maybe your wife has been refused as other members of staff, who are full time have been given permission to attend to take time off to attend the funeral.
Perhaps the surgery should just close for the day if no cover for Reception can be found. As the OP hasn't once responded I'm not sure why kindly ABers are still trying to find a solution to the problem.
pink-kittens - you obviously failed to read the last line...

"When a dependant dies, you can take time off to make funeral arrangements, as well as to attend a funeral."
and you obviously failed to read the op abberant
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I haven't responded because I was out all day, apart from other activities I was looking after the young children of the deceased.

Thank you for all your contributions.

Although no longer I used to run my own businesses and, like others, would have been (indeed was) completely understanding when it came to personal issues.

To my mind if you don't look after your staff do not expect them to remain loyal to you.

Already, since the management changed, the place where my wife works has been hemorrhaging staff and this is merely the latest outrage.

She is going to attend the funeral come what may and she is not only very good at her job, she is reliable and conscientious even through the adversity.

So the practice will be less efficient without her.

Thank you once again for your kind comments.

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