When an employee’s absence from work is not planned because of serious external causes (other than the employee’s own sickness or injury), it will come under the heading “emergency leave”. It’s a tricky subject to define because one person’s emergency is another person’s minor inconvenience.
As a rule, all leave that is not covered by such specific laws and contractual obligations as parental leave, sickness and annual leave is emergency leave.
Typically, serious reasons will include the death, serious injury, illness or trauma of a close relative. Absence caused by such occurrence is often called “compassionate leave” or “sympathy leave”.
Other causes of emergency leave are less serious, for example being unable to travel because of a broken down car, children’s schools being unexpectedly closed or child-minders not turning up.
Ultimately, it is up to the employer to decide whether to pay for all emergency leave. Some will request that the days lost are treated as holidays. Many employers do continue payments if the cause is serious, at least for a reasonable amount of time. It helps to maintain morale, and also it is questionable how productive members of staff would be when their minds are elsewhere.