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Parameters set for emergency time off in landmark ruling

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Emergency time off has been capped following a landmark ruling by an employment tribunal.

In Cortest Limited v O’Toole the tribunal ruled that employees are entitled to emergency time off, but it is limited to the time it takes to set up appropriate arrangements to deal with the problem and not to convert it into an extended leave of absence.

Employment partner Patrick Howarth, of south west solicitors Foot Anstey, brought the case on behalf of Wiltshire business Cortest Ltd. He challenged a tribunal decision that Cortest acted unlawfully in refusing an employee, Mr O’Toole, a month’s absence when his wife left the family home, leaving him to look after their children.

Commenting, Howarth said: “This important ruling draws a distinction between leave of absence and emergency time off. Employers now have some parameters when they give their employees time off to deal with emergencies.

“Employees also now know that emergency leave gives them time to deal with the immediate issues of a problem but not with the aftermath over an extended period of time.”

Nick Alexander, of Cortest, said: “Naturally we are delighted to have won our case. We were as flexible as we could be with Mr O’Toole, initially allowing him time off, and when it became clear that he wanted to be absent for some time, offering to re-employ him when he was able to return to work.

“But for a small business such as ours, where staff work in pairs, it is just not tenable for someone to expect to take such a long time off as it impacts adversely on the company and other employees.”

Cortest, which is based just outside Salisbury in Wiltshire, provides lighting repair services to local authorities, where staff work in two person crews.

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Annie Hayes

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