Labour Research November 2004

Law Matters

Dependants' leave is for limited uses

An employee sacked for taking time off work when her mother died was not protected by the statutory right to dependants' leave.

Mrs Forster took three weeks' sick leave, certified by her GP as "bereavement reaction", after the death. She had also taken 12 days' bereavement leave following her father's death just four months earlier, and two other periods of sick leave totalling five days during her 10 months of employment. When her GP signed her off for another two weeks, she was dismissed.

Forster said her dismissal was automatically unfair under section 57A of the Employment Rights Act 1996, as it arose from her taking time off "in consequence of the death of a dependant." However, the EAT said that this section allows for time off to arrange and attend the funeral, but is not intended to give a statutory right to bereavement leave. Forster's claim therefore failed.

Forster v Cartwright Black Solicitors UKEAT/0179/04