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Time off work - overview

This advice applies to Scotland

The law gives you the right to take time off work in certain circumstances, but you might not be paid for this time off. Your rights depend on your employment status - check your employment status.

Your contract of employment might give you additional rights to the ones listed on this page - check it to see.

If you don’t have a written contract of employment, you might still have extra rights. This might have been verbally agreed with your employer, or come about because of the way things are done in your workplace.

Time off for holidays

Most workers including employees are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks' paid holiday a year - check if you’re entitled to paid holidays.

Time off for public duties

If you’re an employee and you need to take time off work because you’re involved in some types of public duties, for example as a magistrate, local councillor or school governor, your employer must allow you to take a reasonable amount of time off work.

You won’t be paid for the hours you’ve missed unless your contract of employment says so, and you don’t have to make up the time later on.

Time off for jury service

Your employer isn't legally required to give you time off for jury service, but most accept that it is a duty an employee could be called upon to fulfil. If your employer is very unhappy about you taking time off because of your commitments, you can ask the court to be excused for work reasons.

Your employer doesn’t have to release you for jury service if it would cause a serious problem for them. If this happens you can ask to postpone your duty - you’ll still have to do it at a later date.

You can try to negotiate with your employer to find a time to do your duty that's better for both of you.

Your employer doesn’t have to pay you for the time that you take off, unless your employment contract says so. You'll be able to claim money back from the court to make up for some of your financial losses.

If you’re dismissed for doing jury duty, your dismissal is usually ‘automatically unfair’ and you might be able to challenge your dismissal

Your dismissal is not ‘automatically unfair’ if your employer asked you to try to do your jury duty another time, but you didn’t apply to postpone it.

There's a strict time limit for making a claim and you should seek advice straight away.

Time off for study or training

If you’re an employee aged 16 or 17 in full-time work, you’re entitled to a reasonable amount of time off to study or train. It’s paid at your normal rate. Your chosen qualification must get you up to the national standard of education. This is the same level as 5 National 5s or 1 SVQ or 1 NVQ. You can ask your school or college what level your qualification is.

If you’re an employee aged 18, in full time work and started your studies or training before you turned 18, you have the right to time off to finish your qualification. This should be paid at your normal rate. The qualification must be the same level or higher, as 5 National 5s or 1 SVQ or 1 NVQ.

If you’re an employee aged 18 or over, you have the right to ask for unpaid time off to train or study. You’ll need to show your employer your chosen qualification will improve your ability to do your job. Your employer doesn’t have to agree to this request. Before you ask, check that you:

  • work somewhere with more than 250 employees
  • have worked there for more than 26 weeks

Time off to have a baby or look after your child

If you’re a new parent or you’re expecting a baby you have extra rights at work. 

You or your partner could be entitled to:

  • maternity leave and pay
  • paternity leave and pay
  • shared parental leave and pay
  • adoption leave and pay
  • unpaid time off to look after your child
  • time off to attend antenatal appointments

You can read more about parental rights at work.

Time off for emergencies

If you’re an employee, you’re entitled to take reasonable time off work to deal with unexpected problems or emergencies with close family members, or other people who depend on you. This is called ‘dependant leave’.

You won’t be paid unless your contract of employment says so, but you don’t have to make it up later on. There is no set amount of time you can take off as it depends on the situation. You can take time off, for example, when:

  • someone gets ill or is injured
  • someone dies
  • care arrangements for someone suddenly break down
  • you need to deal with an unexpected incident involving your child at their school

A close family member usually means a child, husband, wife, civil partner, cohabiting partner or parent. Someone who depends on you can be anyone who lives with you (other than a lodger, tenant or boarder), or someone who relies on you, such as an elderly or disabled relative or neighbour.

Time off to visit the doctor or dentist

Your employer might give you time off work to visit the doctor or dentist but they’re not legally required to do so. You should check your contract of employment to see if it says you can have time off for these appointments.

If your contract doesn’t say you can have time off, your employer can insist you have these appointments outside work hours, take holiday leave or make the time up later on. 

If you’re disabled and your employer won’t let you take time off for a medical appointment connected with your disability, they could be discriminating against you. You can check if your problem at work is discrimination.

If your employer won't let you take time off

You should have an informal conversation first. Explain why you need the time off. You could get help to make your case from a trade union rep if you have one. If this doesn't work, you should raise a grievance with your employer.

If you’re dismissed or treated unfairly for taking time off

Your employer can’t dismiss you or treat you unfairly for taking time off work when you have a right to do so. 

If your employer does dismiss you or treat you unfairly for taking time off, you should get help from an experienced adviser.

If your client has been dismissed for taking time off work or treated unfairly, you can work out if your client has an unfair dismissal claim.

They might also be able to make a discrimination claim - you should check if their problem at work is discrimination.

The adviser may be able to persuade your employer to take you back. If this doesn't work, you might be able to make a claim to an employment tribunal.

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