UCL Human Resources


Special Leave Policy (leave for domestic and personal reasons)

Leave for personal reasons, training and development.



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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Medical appointments

Hospital, doctor, dental appointments
6. 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.

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

Bereavement leave

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

Death of a child (under the age of 18)

9. 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.

10. 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

11. Parental bereavement leave may be taken as:

  • a single block of four weeks; or

  • separate blocks of one week at different times.

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

13. 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.


Other types of bereavement 

    13. 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

    14. 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.

    15. 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.

    16. 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.

    Fertility Leave

    17. 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.

    18. 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.

    19. 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.

    20. 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.

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


    Carers' Leave

    22. Current employment legislation entitles employees to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with unexpected emergencies involving a dependent. In this context a dependent is:-

    (i)  a spouse, civil partner, child or parent of the employee,

    (ii) someone who lives in the same household as the employee, otherwise than by reason of being the employee’s boarder, employee, lodger or tenant, or

    (iii) someone who reasonably relies on the employee to provide or arrange care.

    23. It is UCL’s policy to offer an enhanced provision to the statutory entitlement, by giving employees up to 5 days paid carers leave (pro rata for part time staff) within any 12 month period. Additional reasonable, unpaid time off will also be permitted. This will not affect annual or sick leave provisions and employees are not required to exhaust their annual leave before carers leave is granted.

    24. Carers leave can be taken in the following unexpected and unplanned situations:

    • Taking care and providing assistance to a dependant if they give birth unexpectedly, fall ill, or are injured or assaulted
    • To deal with the death of a dependent. Also see Bereavement Leave
    • To organise longer term care for a dependant.
    • Unforeseeable breakdown of normal care provision, for example a sick childminder or an unexpected school, care home or nursery closure. In this context, “unexpected” normally means less than 24 hours’ notice.
    • If your child is involved in an incident during school time
    • Any other unexpected, unplanned situation when you need to attend to a dependent.

    25. At UCL, Carer's leave can also be used for the following situations:

    • Accompaniment of a dependent or attendance at a planned medical or welfare appointments concerning the dependent e.g  GP, hospital or a social care appointment.

    Advice is available from your HR Business Partner.

    Applying for Carer's leave

    26. Where an unforeseen situation arises, the employee should contact their manager as early as possible to inform them and request leave. Where an employee has to accompany someone to a planned appointment, they should give their manager as much notice as possible.

    27. In the event that a manager is concerned at the level of leave being applied for and/or where they have reason to believe that the employee's dependent 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 Business Partner or local HR Representative.

    Extended Carer's leave
    28. 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. 

    29. 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.  Practical, feasible alternatives may also be considered, such as flexible hours and/or working at home.

    30. Any situation where a member of staff requires more than 6 months off will be considered under the Career Break policy.


    Leave for urgent personal or other crises

    31. 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.  

    32. 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.

    Leave for Other Domestic Crises
    33. 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. 


    Travel and weather disruption

    34. 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.

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

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

    37. 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.

    38. 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.

    39. 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.

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

    Religious and cultural observance

    41. 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.

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

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

    43. 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.

    Extended Annual Leave

    44. Employees who wish to take an extended period of annual leave (up to 6 weeks maximum in a single leave year), can request this to their line manager under the Extended Annual Leave policy.

    Time off for professional development and training 

    45. UCL is committed to continuing professional development (CPD) and it is expected and encouraged of all employees, regardless of role. 

    46. The amount of time dedicated to professional development and training will depend on the nature of the role, the aspirations of the individual and the development needs that have been agreed as part of the appraisal process.

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

    ii) For all other employees, it is recommended that at least 3 days per year should be undertaken for professional development and learning events, however this is purely a guide. In many cases, it is likely that this will be exceeded and it should be aligned to the career conversations that have taken place with the line manager and the outcome of the annual appraisal.

    47. Any agreed time dedicated to professional development and training away from normal day to day duties will be part of the employee’s normal working hours and will be paid. It is not necessary to officially record this time in any HR systems, but should be noted in the appraisal forms and documentation.

    48. Professional development should not just be limited to attendance on training courses. Employees should discuss with their manager additional experiential learning opportunities, for example- coaching; buddying; mentoring; job shadowing; acting up; attending lectures; conferences, networking events and seminars and other ways to broaden or deepen their skill set. 

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

    49. 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.

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

    51. If employees require time off for study towards a qualification, 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

    52. There might on rare occasion be a situation where arrangements for professional development and training cannot be agreed with the line manager. In these circumstances, employees have the right to apply for unpaid time off for training, providing the training could make them more effective at their job.

    53. Both UCL and the employee should follow the statutory procedure in these circumstances.

    54. The Employee should make a request in writing to their line manager. If a request is accepted, the line manager will confirm the arrangements in writing to the employee including a description of the training and the dates on which the training will take place. If a request is rejected, the line manager 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 and provide details of the employee's right to appeal.

    55. 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.


    56. Where an employee believes that their request has not been properly considered, they may appeal against the decision within 14 days, to the Director of Employee Relations, Policy and Planning, who will appoint an appeal panel.

    57. The appeal panel will comprise of 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. The employee is entitled to be accompanied at the appeal meeting by a work colleague or UCL trade union representative. The HR Division will advise the employee of the decision of the appeal in writing, within 14 days of the appeal meeting. If the appeal is upheld the written decision must be dated and include a start date for the training which has been agreed. If the appeal is refused, the written notification must set out the reason for refusal in this case and provide a sufficient explanation of the grounds for the decision.

     The Appeal Panel's decision shall be final.

    Monitoring of the policy 

    58. 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
    January 2024

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