Time off Work for the School Play

#HRFridayFact: The School Nativity or seasonal play isn’t an emergency so employers are not obliged to give staff time off to go and watch

As Christmas rolls around, employers are likely to be asked for time off by some of their employees to enable them to go and watch their child or grandchild perform in a school play. Like any other request for time-off, employers are under no obligation to grant it.  

Employers must allow staff to take reasonable time off for emergencies involving dependants. This normally refers to children but could also be an elderly or disabled relative for whom the employee was a carer or held responsibility for welfare. Any time taken off in emergency circumstances does not have to be paid.

A Nativity or seasonal play isn’t an emergency so doesn’t fall under these rules. However it may seem harsh and uncaring not to allow the time off; particularly when, by virtue of the fact that it is a Nativity play, it would be held during the season of goodwill.

Options for how the time-off is taken will largely be either as holiday, unpaid leave or granted as discretionary paid leave. As an employer, whichever policy you choose, we strongly recommend that you apply it consistently across the workforce. This will help prevent claims of favouritism or worse, discrimination.

Unlike emergencies, events such as school plays and sports days are known about in advance and so can be planned for. With this in mind, an employer may decide that staff must take a holiday day for such events; or half-day if you allow this.

As school plays probably result in just a few hours absence it might be unreasonable to break holiday down to hours to accommodate them and so discretionary paid leave might be an easier solution. Or you could ask the employee to make the hours back at another time.

Depending upon the profile of the workforce, a business might have just one or two employees that ask for a few hours off for Nativity duties. As the impact on the business is likely to be negligible, the absence may be simply overlooked. However it may disgruntle other employees if this time off is paid and no equivalent time off is offered.

Also, as your employees’ children will be of differing ages, make sure that your decisions are consistent from year to year.

For some businesses, particularly retail and leisure, The festive season is the busiest time of year and can often be a period where no leave is allowed at all for anybody.

Ultimately, consistency is key. So to re-iterate, whichever policy you opt for when it comes to ad-hoc or discretionary leave, keep it consistent across the workforce to maintain morale and harmony. Don’t be drawn into favouring any particular reason for requesting leave.

Your leave policy should be available in you staff handbook and if you would like some help or support with this then just call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

24 November 2017, 11:26