Unsympathetic boss

My husband was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS around five years ago and had to give up work. I still work full time however I have had periods off work due to stress and unpaid leave due to looking after my husband (he doesn’t know how he’s going to feel from one day to the next). I have now also been diagnosed with anxiety and am seeing a therapist for CBT treatment. I was called to a meeting with my line manager and HR regarding my absences, both of which they consider fall below an acceptable standard. I was informed that I get a decent amount of annual leave so when I take sick leave (usually due to stress) and unpaid leave I’m getting even more time off (I get the impression the suggestion was I use annual leave instead of sick leave and unpaid leave - but that was implied not confirmed). In terms of my unpaid leave (usually a couple of days, usually no more than once a month, if that) my line manager asked if I needed to stay with my husband all day, was I not able to come into work after I had got him dressed (as I sometimes need to do) and made him something to eat! Basically my question is what are my rights as regards unpaid leave to care for my husband? Can my line manager say “you have had x days on unpaid leave over x occasions and this is unacceptable” and/or “do you have to stay with your husband all day?” Obviously this is causing me even more stress and if there is something I can say to her to make her back off (in terms of what she is and isn’t allowed to expect of me) then I would like to know. Thanks in advance for any advice anybody can give.

does this help?

Acas have a helpline you can call to get advice on all sorts of employment stuff


link only went to home page sorry copy and paste from acas here:

Time off for dependants

From day one of employment all employees have the right to time off for dependants. Time off for dependants is time off during working hours to deal with unforeseen matters and emergencies.

  • Who is a dependant?
  • How much time off can be taken?
  • What can the time off be for?
  • Pay while absent
  • Bereavements
  • Less favourable treatment

Who is a dependant?

A dependant is someone who depends on the employee for care.

A dependant could be a spouse, partner, child, parent, or someone else who depends on the employee, for example an elderly neighbour.

How much time off can be taken?

There is no set limit to how much time can be taken off. The right is to a reasonable amount of time off, although it is not stated how much is reasonable. In most cases one or two days will be sufficient to deal with the immediate situation, but it will depend on individual circumstances.

The employee should tell their employer as soon as possible the reason for the absence and how long they expect to be absent.

What can the time off be for?

Time off for dependants is to deal with unexpected situations. For example:

  • to deal with a breakdown in the care of a dependant
  • to put longer term care in place for children or elderly relatives
  • if a dependant falls ill or is taken into hospital.

The right to time off for dependants does not give the right to automatic time off in a domestic emergency, such as a boiler breaking down, or for the care of pets, as neither of these involve a dependant.

Time off for dependants would also not cover a situation that an employee knows about in advance, for example taking a child to a hospital appointment.

If an employee needs time off for an occasion that would not fall under time off for dependants they should consider other options such as:

  • checking their contract to see if there is a contractual right to time off
  • discussing the possibility of unpaid leave with their employer
  • requesting annual leave for the time required
  • considering whether they would be able to request parental leave.

Pay while absent

There is no automatic right to be paid when taking time off for dependants. An employer can offer a certain amount of paid time off for emergency situations and, if it does, this should be clearly set out in a contract of employment. If the contract is silent on the issue then the time off would usually be unpaid.


Time off for dependants allows employees unpaid time off to arrange or attend the funeral of a dependant.

An employer may have its own policy for when an employee is bereaved (sometimes called compassionate leave), which may allow extra time off or payment for the time taken. There is no obligation on an employer to do so but, if it does, it should be clearly set out in an employment contract.

Time off for dependants does not allow for time off to cope with the emotional effects of a bereavement. If an employee feels unable to work following a bereavement they should speak to their employer or consider speaking to their doctor.

For more information visit Bereavement in the workplace.

Less favourable treatment

Time off for dependants is a statutory right for all employees and is it unlawful for an employer to subject its employees to any detriment for taking it.

If an employee feels that they are being treated less favourably by their employer for taking time off for dependants, they should first consider raising the issue informally. Many issues can be resolved quickly by having a conversation with a line manager or other appropriate person within the business.

If an informal approach does not work an employee has the option of raising a formal complaint (also known as a grievance). This should be done in writing and make the employer aware of how strongly the employee feels about the situation, while also giving the employer the opportunity to resolve it.

As a last resort the employee could consider making a complaint to an Employment Tribunal. There is generally a three month time limit for bringing a claim to Employment Tribunal. However this time limit may be paused if Early Conciliation is taking place. For more information, go to Employment Tribunals.

Further information

Related Pages

  • Parents and carers
  • Parental Leave
  • The right to request flexible working

Other Sites

  • GOV.UK - Time off for family and dependants
1 Like

Hello JH1965, sorry to hear about your situation. The MS Society retain a lawyer at the Disability Law Service and they may be of assistance.

Good luck.

I don’t usually go in this section of the forum but your post caught my eye. I myself have been diagnosed with ms, my dad is yet again in hospital and mum will be having a procedure which will mean she can not lift anything or drive for a while - I’m the only child now as my sister passed away 6 years ago so this will fall to me) On top of this my job is really stressful and the hospital has now decided I’m eligible for DMT, I found making my decision on this really stressful. I’ve told my boss my circumstances. I have in my view fought with them to get the most basic of reasonable adjustments, ie a late start of 10.30am (but bear in mind that we have flexi time and in theory can work any time between 7 and 7, so I could get in at 11.06 and still do a full day). My boss told me last week that I have been “ coming in late” , I’ve got in at 10.40 on some days and he says he’s not happy. I’m at my wits end, I honestly feel I’m having a mental and physical breakdown. I too like you asked for unpaid leave whilst I was going through the diagnosis process two years ago and was told that would mean I would get more “holiday” than anyone else. I can’t sleep at night despite taking sleeping tablets. I phoned up the Dis above and they just seemed interested in the legal route, ie tribunal. I can’t believe that Employers treat their staff so badly. To put in context, and I’m not saying this to be big headed, but my job requires a degree qualification ( in engineering) and post qual a min of five years experience, so it’s not like there are oodles of bodies out there to do the job, which they know as they are struggling to get staff, I just don’t get it, does anyone else? Sorry to hijack your post, but just to let you know there are others in your position, which is crap, but you are not alone.