Wednesday, 30 November 2022 17:37

Time Off for the School Play

As Christmas approaches, employers are likely to be asked for time off by some of their employees so they can go and watch their child or grandchild perform in the school play. Like most other requests for time-off, employers are not under any obligation to grant it; but are they really going to deny it?

Employers do have to allow staff to take reasonable time off for emergencies involving dependants. We normally associate dependants with children but it could also mean 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 treated will likely be either as holiday, unpaid leave or granted as discretionary paid leave. Whichever policy is chosen, we strongly recommend that employers apply it consistently across the workforce. This will help prevent claims of favouritism or potentially 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 holiday time for such events; or perhaps a half-day if the employer allow it.

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; as well the employer showing themselves in a good light. Alternatively, the employee could be asked 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 request time off for school play 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 employees’ children are likely to be of differing ages, decisions need to be consistent from year to year so that a group of parents isn’t disadvantaged because of a sudden rule change.

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. Again, so long as this is consistent then parents were probably aware when they took the job.

With more employees working from home, the temptation for them might be to simply slip away for an hour or two and hope their absence isn’t noticed. We suggest that employers remind staff that even if they are working from home they should be formally requesting time off for any absence. Even if it is ultimately granted as discretionary leave, it not for the employee to simply assume that it is acceptable; otherwise the line will become irrevocably blurred.

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

Your leave policy should be made available to your staff in the staff handbook. If that’s something you would like some help or support with this then just call us on 01452 331331 or email us at at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


Read 1671 times Last modified on Wednesday, 30 November 2022 17:57


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