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Do Partners have a right to time off to care for sick dependents?

Imagine the scenario – one of your partners takes a few days off when their child has a common childhood illness. You have noticed that it is always this parent that takes the time off and not the other, who also works in another local GP practice. Therefore your practice is  unfortunately always the one disadvantaged by this behaviour. How would you manage this?

First, consider the extent of the ‘problem’ and put it into perspective. Separate days off are often more disruptive than continuous periods of long term absence for example, but consider also the frequency, the aptitude of the Partner when they are at work and the extent their absence is affecting others.

Then, check your Partnership Deed, which may permit a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off. Self-employed Partners are not entitled to take any time off when their child is sick unless it is expressly written into the Partnership deed.

Remember that Dependent Leave (where this exists in the Deed) is intended to deal with unforeseen matters and emergencies.  If a Partner knows in advance they are going to need time off, other arrangements should be agreed, eg annual or parental leave.

Bear in mind that Government guidelines suggest one or two days is reasonable, sufficient to deal with the immediate care of the child and make arrangements for the longer term.

Do check your insurance policy.  Many practices now have “general absence” cover as opposed to just locum sickness cover.

There is no discretion under the SFE for the PCT/NHS CB to pay for Dependent Leave locum reimbursement so the full cost is usually borne by the absent Partner, or less commonly split between them and the partnership.

If you haven’t got a Partnership Deed then there is no right to time off.  However, if you have permitted time off previously, you may have set a precedent.

If you stop paying the Partner his/her drawings this could be construed as discriminatory/victimisation and you could find yourself at an Employment Tribunal.

You could consider expulsion, but this is a high risk, last resort solution.

Do not approach the other practice.

Article published in PulseToday.co.uk on 18th March 2013

Posted on March 21st 2013 in DR Solicitors in print, News and Publications

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