UCL Human Resources


Special Leave Policy (leave for domestic and personal reasons)

Leave for personal reasons, training and development.


1. Introduction
2. Medical appointments
3. Bereavement leave
4. Fertility leave
5. Carers’ leave
6. Leave for urgent personal or other crises
7. Travel and weather disruption
8. Religious and cultural observance
9. Time off to visit relatives abroad
10. Time off for professional development and training
11. Monitoring of policy implementation

1. Introduction

1.1 The aim of this document is establish a clear policy for leave for personal and other reasons in order to ensure consistency of approach in line with employment legislation and UCL's commitment to good employment practice.

1.2 The provisions within this policy are not exhaustive and if any requests for special leave fall outside this document, managers or employees should refer the matter to the HR Business Partnering team with responsibility for advising their department.

1.3 Where specific levels of provision are quoted in this document, these should be adjusted on a pro-rata basis for part-time employees where appropriate.

1.4 Details of other types of leave such as annual leave can be found within the relevant policy or within the terms and conditions for academic or research and support staff.

1.5 All time off work should be recorded in the relevant HR systems.

2. Medical appointments

2.1 Hospital, doctor, dental appointments
Hospital, doctor or dentist appointments if for part of a working day should not be counted as sick leave and therefore not counted for statutory sick pay. Such appointments should be arranged out of working hours if at all possible or so as to give minimal disruption to the working day. Time taken during working hours for the above appointments will be paid and the dates and times of the appointments should be recorded by the department but not classified as sick leave. When requesting leave, the individual should provide their manager with appropriate documentation confirming the appointment where appropriate. When the appointment requires a whole day's absence, this will be recorded as sickness absence. Appointments relating to elective surgery or dentistry for cosmetic purposes should be arranged outside working hours or taken as annual leave.

2.2 Cancer screening
Employees will be granted paid time off for the purposes of cancer screening where they cannot make visits in their own time.

3. Bereavement leave

Bereavement Leave is available to all employees, regardless of length of service. 

3.1 Death of a child (under the age of 18)

Employees will be granted 4 weeks full pay (pro-rata for part time staff) in the event of the death of a child who is under the age of 18.

In order to be eligible for paid leave, employees must be:

  • The parent; or

  • The partner of the child's parent, who lives in an enduring family relationship with the child and their parent; or

  • The "parent in fact", which means that, for a continuous period of at least four weeks before the child passed away, they have been living with the child and had "day-to-day responsibility" for the child (but who is not being paid to look after the child); or

  • An adoptive parent; or

  • A parent of a child born through surrogacy; or

  • A Parent who has suffered a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. The parent who gave birth is also entitled to paid Maternity Leave. Their partner is entitled to paid Paternity/Partner's Leave.

Taking parental bereavement leave

Parental bereavement leave may be taken as:

  • a single block of four weeks; or

  • separate blocks of one week at different times.

Parental bereavement leave can be taken at any time from the date of the death of the child until 56 weeks after.

Other parental leave entitlements will not be affected if the employee takes parental bereavement leave, and employees can add their parental bereavement leave to the end of their parental leave, providing it is taken within 56 weeks of the death of the child.


3.2 Other types of bereavement 

    Employees may be granted up to a total of 5 days paid time off (pro-rata for part time staff) following the death of any of the people listed below:

    • own child who is over the age of 18

    • next-of-kin or nominated next-of-kin (see section 3.1 if the next of kin is a child under the age of 18)

    • partners (including same-sex partners)

    • parents

    • parents of partner, if the employee is responsible for funeral arrangements

    These provisions are not meant to limit the manager's discretion as each request for such leave will need to be judged on the circumstances of the cases. For example some people may have been raised by their grandparents, aunt/uncle, brother/sister and therefore a longer leave period would be in order.

    If the employee has to travel to another country (e.g. where the funeral is to take place or where their family is) this may be extended up to a further 5 days paid time off (i.e. a maximum total of 10 days, pro-rata for part time staff). Such cases will be treated individually according to the distance to be travelled.

    Where appropriate, employees may be granted up to 1 day's paid leave to attend a funeral of a close friend or other relative. Managers will be sympathetic to individual requests for annual leave to cover other contingencies relating to a bereavement.

    4. Fertility Leave

    4.1 This type of leave is available for those receiving Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) or In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment. UCL recognises the physical and emotional stress of undergoing fertility testing and treatment for assisted conception and understands the impact this can have on employees. For the purposes of the support available under this policy, a distinction has been drawn between the testing and treatment stages. Wherever possible, appointments for the investigation of, and testing for, fertility problems should be arranged outside of normal working hours. Where flexible working arrangements are not practical, time taken during working hours will be treated in the same way as for other doctor/hospital appointments and will be paid.

    4.2 To support employees undergoing treatment for assisted conception, up to 5 days of paid leave in any 12 month period may be taken (pro-rata for part-time employees) for the purpose of receiving and recovering from IUI or IVF treatment. If time off is required due to the side effects of treatment, this will be treated as sickness absence. Sickness absence taken following implantation of a fertilised ovum that is related to the procedure itself, will not be counted towards the triggers in the Sickness Absence Policy.

    4.3 Should an employee exhaust the time allowed under this policy, discussion with the individual will help to establish whether annual leave, sickness absence or any other type of leave or flexible working arrangements would be the most applicable.

    4.4 Employees, who would like to take time off work to support a partner (including same sex partners) undergoing fertility treatment will need to take annual leave, however when a medical appointment is required as part of the treatment process, this will be treated in the same way as for other doctor/hospital appointments.

    4.5 Other Support
    Please see UCL Occupational Health website for other sources of information and support and access to the Employee Assistance Programme.


    5. Carers' Leave

    5.1 Legislative background
    The Employment Rights Act 1999 (ERA) gives a right to every employee, regardless of length of service, to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work "to take action which is necessary" to help when a dependant gives birth, falls ill or is injured or assaulted. A "dependant" in this context means spouse or civil partner, partner (including same-sex partner), child or parent of the employee or any member of the employee's household who is not their employee, tenant, lodger or boarder. Where time off is to take necessary action to help when a dependant falls ill or is injured or assaulted, the definition extends to "any person who reasonably relies on the employee for assistance" on such an occasion. That means an individual for whom the employee is the only person who can help - for example, an elderly neighbour with no relatives or other neighbours, who is living alone and who falls and breaks a leg. In all cases, the right is limited to the amount of time that is reasonable in the circumstances of the particular case. In most cases, whatever the problem, one or two days will be the most that is needed to deal with the immediate issues and sort out longer-term arrangements if necessary.

    5.2 Who is eligible for Carer’s leave?
    Carer’s leave will be granted to all employees, regardless of length of service. The policy applies to all staff who have caring responsibilities for dependants such as:

    • employee's own child(ren)
    • next of kin or nominated next-of-kin
    • partners (including same sex partners)
    • parents/parents of partners

    Staff may be granted up to 5 days Carer’s leave (pro-rata for part time staff) with full pay within any 12 month period. They may be granted up to a further 5 days unpaid leave per year. This will not affect annual or sick leave provisions and staff are not required to exhaust their annual leave before special leave is granted.

    5.3 When the Carer's Leave policy applies
    Staff have a wide range of caring responsibilities and are entitled to receive Carer’s leave for the following:

    • Illness of anyone dependent on the employee where their situation requires the employee to look after them;
    • Unforeseeable breakdown of normal caring arrangements for any of the above (e.g. sick childminder, closure of school, nursery, day centre or other regular form of provision);
    • Accompaniment of a dependant to a GP, dentist, clinic or hospital;
    • Attendance at appointments concerning the welfare and care of above (e.g. child guidance, making arrangements for resettlement of people in long-term sheltered accommodation/nursing home/psychiatric care etc.).
    • Taking care of a dependent following a miscarriage prior to 24 weeks of pregnancy.  See bereavement leave above and Paternity/Partner's Leave if stillbirth is following 24 weeks of pregnancy.  

    This list in not exhaustive, and Carer's leave may be granted for other purposes which fall under the spirit of this agreement. Advice is available from the HR Division.

    5.4 Applying for Carer’s leave
    Where an unforeseen situation arises, the employee should contact their manager as early as possible to inform them of the problem and request leave. Where an employee has to accompany someone to a planned appointment, they should give their manager as much notice as possible.

    In the event that a manager is concerned at the level of leave being applied for and where they have reason to believe that the employee's dependant may not be sick, they can require the employee to provide a medical certificate. There may be a charge for this, for which the employee will be reimbursed where they have met the cost. Where a problem arises, the manager should seek advice from the HR Division.

    5.5 Extended Carer’s Leave
    Employees must normally have a minimum of one year's service with UCL before being considered for extended Carer’s leave. On occasion, staff may require extended carer’s leave to look after someone who is recovering from a serious illness or who is terminally ill. In these cases, managers may grant the member of staff paid extended Carer's leave of up to 5 days (15 in exceptional circumstances).  This is in addition to 5 days Carer's leave, during one leave year.  Managers may also grant additional unpaid leave for up to a combined period of 6 months in total. Before such leave can be granted, managers will need to ensure that they can cover the employee's workload.


    Any situation where a member of staff requires more than 6 months off will be considered sympathetically and practical, feasible alternatives considered, such as flexible hours and/or working at home. Staff should be counselled by their manager in consultation with the HR Division about the possibility of job-sharing their post or temporarily reducing their hours of work as an alternative to taking a complete break from work.

    Where hours are reduced on a temporary basis the individual's salary would normally also be reduced but UCL would maintain the full employer's superannuation contribution where the employee is prepared to maintain the full employee's contribution. Ultimately, any decision to grant further unpaid leave will turn on the balance of UCL's interests and those of the employee.

    Members of staff wishing to apply for extended Carer’s leave should apply in writing to their manager in the first instance. Employees will be asked to obtain a medical certificate and where there is a charge for this, it will be paid by UCL.


    6. Leave for urgent personal or other crises

    6.1 Employees can request leave in circumstances of urgent domestic crises which are not covered by any of the other policies in this document. Some examples would be:

    • vehicle theft
    • vehicle accident
    • burglary
    • emergency repairs to home or services arising from or to avoid flooding or fire.  

    In such circumstances, employees will normally be granted one day's leave with pay per annum. Employees should contact their manager when the incident occurs.

    6.2 Leave for Other Domestic Crises
    At times, employees may experience personal difficulties which can be extremely stressful, e.g. relationship breakup, domestic abuse, re-possession of home, bankruptcy, redundancy of a partner etc. Managers should deal with requests for such leave with discretion as each case will need to be responded to, taking into account individual circumstances. In cases where staff have experienced domestic violence or where a manager suspects that a member of staff has experienced domestic violence, it is imperative that managers deal with the issues in a sympathetic and confidential manner so that staff feel able to request leave in line with this policy. The HR Division should be contacted for advice in all such instances. 


    7. Travel and weather disruption

    UCL makes every attempt to keep activities running when there is travel disruption or adverse weather conditions. Members of staff are asked to come into work where required and if practicable and safe to do so

    If they are unable to come in, they must advise their Head of Department (or deputy or line manager) as soon as possible.

    Consideration should be given to flexible working options, including working from home, where possible.

    Where staff cannot work from home and will be unable to get to work, they should take annual leave or unpaid leave. Alternatively, they can discuss with their manager whether it is possible to make the time up on another day or over a series of days.

    Pregnant staff, disabled staff or those with an underlying condition who are required on campus but feel that their health or safety would be put at risk during travel disruptions or adverse weather conditions, are asked to raise this with their line manager. The line manager will either undertake an individual risk assessment on RISKnet, implement reasonable adjustments or seek advice from their HR Business Partner.

    If it is agreed that adjustments would still place the individual’s health and/or safety at too high risk to attend work they will exceptionally be granted special leave to be recorded on MyHR as Paid Leave – Other.

    Please see Safety Services’ guidance on weather hazards.

    If it is necessary to curtail access to buildings, staff will be notified at the earliest opportunity.

    8. Religious and cultural observance

    There are some employees who have particular needs for time off in relation to religious and cultural observance. This may be on a daily or weekly basis for a small number of staff, but more often, will involve requests for a day off for a particular religious or cultural occasion.

    The Equality Act, states that work requirements would generally be unlawful if they have a disproportionately adverse effect on particular religious groups and cannot be shown to be justifiable.

    All employees who have needs for time off for religious or cultural observance will be entitled to request the following:

    1. flexibility in the arrangement of shifts, rotas and working hours generally;
    2. annual leave, flexi-days or unpaid leave.

    Managers will be sympathetic to requests on these grounds and will try to accommodate them, wherever it is reasonably practicable to do so, subject to the needs of the service.

    9. Time off to visit relatives abroad

    It is recognised that some employees have close relatives abroad whom they may wish to visit for an extended period. In such circumstances, an employee with twelve months service may apply to take an extended period of leave (of up to a maximum of six weeks in one year) subject to the requirements of the service.

    For this purpose, up to 6 weeks annual leave may be accumulated by transferring up-to 2 weeks annual leave from the preceding leave year (pro-rata for part time staff). Employees must however take a minimum of 28 days (pro-rata for part time staff) leave every year (including bank holiday and closure leave). Where an employee has not accumulated sufficient annual leave to take an extended holiday, they may be granted up to one month's unpaid leave to add to paid leave which has been accumulated, (to a maximum of 6 weeks in total).

    The employee should advise their manager in writing 6 months in advance of their request to take extended leave and give approximate dates. Permission to take extended leave would not normally be granted more frequently than once every three years. Should such permission be granted, the manager will confirm this in writing to the employee.

    10. Time off for Professional Development and Training

    10.1 UCL is committed to the continuing professional development (CPD) of all employees. This section provides the framework by which employees can undertake professional development and training, which may include attendance on courses.

    This incorporates UCL's statutory responsibility to consider requests for reasonable time off work to undertake training, where an informal arrangement cannot be agreed.

    10.2 Relevant continuing professional development is expected and encouraged of all UCL employees. The amount of time dedicated to professional development and training will depend on the nature of the role and the aspirations of the individual:-


    i) For Research staff and in line with the Researcher-Devleopment Concordat, UCL will provide opportunities, structured support, encouragement and time for researchers to engage in a minimum of 10 days professional development pro rata per year, recognising that researchers will pursue careers across a wide range of employment sectors. 


    ii) All other employees should dedicate at least 3 days per year to professional development and learning events.  This should be discussed and agreed as part of the appraisal process


    10.3 Any agreed time dedicated to professional development and training will be part of the employee’s normal working hours and will be paid.

    10.4 professional development should not just be limited to attendance on training courses. Employees should discuss with their manager additional experiential learning opportunities, for example:

    • Secondments
    • Coaching
    • Buddying
    • Mentoring
    • Job shadowing
    • Erasmus+ mobility programmes
    • Acting up
    • Volunteering
    • Attending lectures, conferences and seminars
    • Networking events
    • Webinars or other types of online learning 
    • Study assistance
    • Broadening or deepening knowledge, skills and experience

    For further information please visit: www.ucl.ac.uk/human-resources/learning-and-development

    10.5 Any professional development and training that the individual undertakes should have the aim of developing their technical skills and/or developing behaviours - for example those set out in the UCL Ways of Working Framework.

    10.6 Employees should discuss the learning outcomes of any professional development and training with their manager.

    10.7 The Study Assistance Scheme contains provision for potential financial support for UCL staff to undertake work related study, leading to a professional qualification, and also the possibility of allowing limited paid time off.  www.ucl.ac.uk/human-resources/learning-development/career-experiences/study-assistance-scheme

    10.8 There may be situations where arrangements for professional development and training cannot be agreed. In these circumstances, employees can appeal by following the process at 9.9 below.

    10.9 Requesting Statutory Time off for Training

    10.9.1 There may be occasions when an employee wishes to undertake additional study or training which has not been agreed through the above routes or in discussion with their manager.

    In these circumstances, employees, regardless of their length of service, may make a formal request to take a period of leave to undertake the desired training. The training should be related to the role in which they are employed and must have a positive impact on their effectiveness within the department.

    10.9.2 Any time off for training agreed under the procedure below will normally be unpaid and employees will also need to meet the costs of the training. 

    Employees who request to take unpaid leave to undertake training must do so voluntarily and should consider the potential financial implications of their choice.

    10.9.3 Employees can make a request for time off for training by writing to their line manager/Head of Department.

    They should set out:

    • the subject matter of the proposed training or study
    • where and when the proposed training or study would take place
    • who would provide or supervise it
    • what qualification it would lead to (if any)
    • how the employee thinks the proposed training or study would improve their effectiveness
    • the date of the application
    • the date and method - e.g. email or letter - that the employee's last application (if any) was submitted

    10.9.4 Procedure to be followed by a manager receiving a written request for time off to undertake training

    i) Within 28 days of receipt of the application, the manager will normally arrange a meeting with the employee to discuss the request, unless there is sufficient information in the application whereby the manager may approve the request without holding a meeting. The employee is entitled to be accompanied at the meeting by a work colleague or UCL trade union representative. If their companion is unable to attend the meeting, the employee can postpone the meeting to a more convenient date. Where the postponed date is reasonable and is within five working days, the manager will agree to the postponement.

    ii)The meeting will provide the manager and the employee with the opportunity to discuss the desired training and period of time off in depth and consider how it might be accommodated within the department.

    iii)  The Human Resources team can provide advice and assistance to managers in considering requests.

    iv)  There may be exceptional occasions where the procedure cannot be followed within the specified time limits. For example, a manager may need extra time to speak to another employee who is on holiday, about whether they could work the hours left uncovered by the employee's requested time off. Extensions of time limits must be in agreement with both the manager and the employee and the manager must make a written record of the agreement. The written record must specify the period the extension relates to, the date on which the extension is to end, be dated and sent to the employee.

    v) Where an application is sent to the manager and the manager is absent from work due to leave or illness the matter shall either be referred upwards within the Department or Division, or an automatic extension will apply. The period that the manager has to arrange the meeting will commence either on the day of the manager's return or 28 days after the application is made, whichever is sooner. On the manager's return, the employee's application must be acknowledged in order to make the employee aware of the extension that has been applied and the date on which they can expect the meeting to take place.

    10.9.5 Decision
    i) Once the manager and the employee have discussed the request, the manager must notify the employee of the decision and confirm this in writing within two weeks following the date of the meeting.

    ii) Managers can only refuse an application for one or more of the following reasons:

    • the proposed study or training would not improve the employee's effectiveness
    • the proposed study or training would not improve the performance of the department
    • the burden of additional costs would be too great
    • the proposed study or training would have a detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand
    • the work cannot be reorganised among existing employees
    • the department is unable to recruit additional employees
    • the proposed study or training would have a detrimental impact on quality
    • the proposed study or training would have a detrimental impact on performance
    • there would be an insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work
    • there are planned structural changes during the proposed study or training period

    10.9.6 Request accepted
    If a request is accepted, the notification must include a description of the training and the dates on which the training will take place. Notes from the meeting and decision making process, including a copy of the confirmation letter should be sent to HR Services so they can be saved on the employee’s HR file on EDRM.

    10.9.7 Request rejected
    If a request is rejected, the notification must state the ground/s for refusing the application, provide a sufficient explanation as to why the ground/s for refusal applies in these circumstances, provide details of the employee's right to appeal and be dated. The decision should be consistent with the discussion that has taken place during the meeting. Notes from the meeting and decision making process, including a copy of the confirmation letter should be sent to HR Services so they can be saved on the employee’s HR file on EDRM.

    10.9.8 Appeal
    i) Where an employee believes that their request has not been properly considered, they may appeal against the decision.

    ii) An appeal must be lodged within 14 days of receipt of the decision to reject the application. The employee must set out the grounds for their appeal in a dated letter to the Director of Human Resources.

    iii) Within 14 days of the Director of Human Resources receiving the notification of appeal from the employee, a meeting to hear the appeal will be held. The Appeal Panel will be appointed by the Director of Human Resources and will comprise three employees who have not previously been involved in the case, one of whom will be a trade union representative1. A member of the HR Business Team will act as secretary to the panel.

    iv) The employee is entitled to be accompanied at the meeting by a work colleague or UCL trade union representative. If his/her companion is unable to attend, the employee can postpone the meeting to a more convenient date. Where the suggested time is reasonable, the senior manager must postpone the meeting.

    v) The HR Division will advise the employee of the decision of the appeal in writing, within 14 days of the appeal meeting.

    10.9.10 Appeal upheld
    If the appeal is upheld the written decision must be dated and include a start date for the training which has been agreed.

    10.9.11 Appeal refused
    If the appeal is refused, the written decision must set out the reason for refusal in this case and provide a sufficient explanation of the grounds for the decision. A copy of the notification will be held on the individual's HR file. The Appeal Panel's decision shall be final.

    11. Monitoring of the policy

    The HR Division will monitor the implementation of this policy and any member of staff who feels that the policy is not being applied consistently should contact the Director of HR. The abuse of this policy by any member of staff obtaining leave under false pretences will be considered serious and could result in disciplinary action.

    Updated HR Policy and Planning
    June 2022

    1Not from the Trade Union recognised to represent either party involved in the appeal.