What do you do if an employee suddenly informs in the middle of their shift, without notice, that they need to go out to a doctors appointment in an hours time?
Or any other personal appointment?
What about a midwife appointment? It’s not a personal appointment but surely if it’s a pregnant employee, they have the right to do so.
It’s not unreasonable to say as an employer, that personal appointments need to be taken at the beginning or end of the working day. Or outside of the working day where possible. This would normally be included in your staff handbook. But we’re reasonable people. We know that it’s not always possible to get (for example) a doctor’s appointment at a time to suit.
So what can you do in this situation?
You can refuse it. If you’ve not been given any notice or advance warning, and it proves a logistical nightmare, you can refuse it.
You have to consider the impact this could have on your remaining employees and maintaining quality standards.
If you can accommodate it then great! However, be wary that this will then become the expectation in the future. Be clear that you will grant it ‘on this occasion’ should you choose to do so. Remind them of the policies regarding personal appointments, and you can’t guarantee a request at this short notice can be granted again.
If an employee is really unwell, we would assume they wouldn’t be fit for work and would therefore go on to arrange an appointment whilst on their sick leave.
If an employee is unwell but is able to attend work, encourage dialogue as it may be a case that the employee does need to seek a medical appointment, and you can mutually agree on this and how to make it workable for both parties.
If you have a pregnant lady who suddenly declares they have an antenatal appointment in an hour, then that’s not ok.
Antenatal appointments are scheduled, and you are entitled to ask for a list of scheduled appointments in advance. If it’s an emergency and the woman and child’s health is at risk, then that’s a different matter. As an employer, you have a duty to the health and welfare of your employees, and in this case, their unborn child. You are within your rights to add to your maternity policy that the appointment card must be shown. A pregnant employee is entitled to reasonable time off with pay for antenatal appointments. As always the issue is the definition of the word reasonableness.
We’ve heard of cases whereby an employee suddenly needs to go to their solicitor as they’re going through a messy divorce. Again, you want to help where you can, but it can’t always be accommodated. It’s ok to say no.
Regardless of the need to attend a personal appointment, you can request proof of this by way of an appointment letter/ confirmation, or an appointment card.
Reasonableness remember is a 2 way street!
If you need any assistance with any aspect of HR or employment law please call us on 01527 909436