What If It’s Not Sickness or Annual Leave?

Sometimes you’ll face the situation where and employee is absent but they’re not sick or on holiday. How should you record these absences, and more importantly what should your policies say?

Time Off in Lieu

Time Off in Lieu, or it’s not so fun acronym TOIL, is additional holiday entitlement that has been granted, usually in payment for an employee working overtime. TOIL is sometimes preferred by employers to overtime, as it usually costs less, since overtime is paid in addition to the employee’s usual salary.

Being clear about the terms of absence is the main thread of this article. So, when laying the ground rules for TOIL, consider: does the TOIL expire at any point? Can it be carried over into the following leave year? Are there any restrictions as to when it can be taken?


This is probably the most sensitive and difficult to navigate. Losing a loved one is heart wrenching, and as a human being you want to support your fellow colleagues through these difficult times, but at the same time, there’s a business to think about, so how far should you go?

Legally, employees have no statutory right to paid leave after the death of a family member, although they do have the right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time. However, it demonstrates compassion and understanding to offer above the legal baseline here.

One of the key things you’ll have to decide is, who is covered by this policy? Parents? Cousins? Girlfriend’s sister’s dog? Making this decision now, and communicating it in your bereavement policy, can save you feeling like a monster when little Poochey’s funeral comes around.

Doctors and Dentists Appointments

Surprisingly, employees are not automatically entitled to time off for routine appointments, even unpaid. Emergency appointments are different and would usually be classified as sickness absence anyway.

So technically you don’t have to allow them time off for routine appointments at all, but that would be quite draconian. You, therefore, have the following options: simply classify it as additional leave (either paid or unpaid); make them take it from their holiday allowance, or make them work the time back.

There are a few exceptions to the rule, most notably pregnant women. During their pregnancy, women have a right to paid time off for any antenatal appointments. Also, employees with a disability are entitled to attend medical appointments related to their disability.

House Emergency

It’s much more common for all the adults in a household to work these days, which means dealing with a leaking pipe, or awaiting the delivery of a replacement freezer, means someone has to take time away from work.

There’s no legal requirement here, and most employers deal with situations like these in an informal way, leaving it down to managers’ discretion. However, having a clear and consistent approach, detailed in a policy can save arguments and accusations of discrimination down the line.

Family Emergency

Legally, any employee is entitled to take a “reasonable amount” of unpaid time off to deal with emergencies relating to a dependant.

The law seems to be deliberately vague around this, and a full analysis is beyond the scope of this article, but the key elements here are “reasonable amount of time” and “emergency”. So, if an employee’s child is sick and they need time to take them to the doctors and arrange for child care, then that falls into this area. However, if they want/need to take the rest of the week off to look after them, that isn’t covered here and should be agreed separately.

Duvet Day

Some companies allow their employees to call in at the last minute and take a Duvet Day, instead of faking a sick day. Companies that offer Duvet Days tend to restrict an employee to two or three per year. The day is then taken from their holiday entitlement – this is key. Essentially, they’re a last-minute holiday. When an employee pulls a sickie, you lose that day; with a Duvet Day, the employee loses that day. Where they also differ from a “sickie” is that they promote honesty, which goes a long way towards fostering a positive company culture.

If you want to know more, we have a blog post all about them: How Duvet Days Can Reduce Your Sickness Absence

In Conclusion

The big takeaway is that you need to have policies in place for these things, and communicate those policies to staff, so there’s no room for argument at a future date.

In addition, make sure it’s all recorded properly. An absence management system like The Holiday Tracker allows you to customise the different types of absence you record for your employees and makes it super-simple to both record the absence and then analyse the data with a range of powerful reports.

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