Hospital appointments and work

My boss wants me to use a half-day of my holiday time so that I can attend a hospital appointment. Am I legally obliged to agree, or should I be given the time off without having to sacrifice my time off?

It’s normal for people to have to visit the doctor during working hours. Annoyingly, hospital appointments and work can cause some serious tension. See, technically speaking your employer is under no obligation to give you time off for hospital appointments. And that includes if you’re a doctor or dentist. If they’re super strict they can even get you to make up the hours you missed later on.

Time off for hospital appointments

Legally you’re not entitled to time off for medical appointments. You can’t even get time off work for hospital appointments for things like getting your coronavirus vaccination (we know, pretty stupid). Hopefully a polite conversation might be enough for you and your boss to come to an agreement. But, it’s within their right for your employer to refuse to pay you. That’s because current employment law states that you have no right to take paid time off for medical appointments. The law only covers if you’re too sick to work. In which case you should be entitled to statutory sick pay. You can learn more about that here.

Are there exceptions when you can get time off for medical appointments?

The only exception would be if you’re pregnant. The prospective parent is allowed paid time off for hospital appointments relating to the pregnancy such as antenatal appointments. So, unless you’re expecting a baby, your boss is right to say that you have to take this half day as a holiday (unless you take it without pay). Using up your annual leave for medical or dental appointments isn’t ideal but unfortunately it’s the only option. Alternatively, you can try scheduling medical appointments outside of working hours. But we know that that’s pretty difficult to manage.

It sounds like you should investigate whether or not all employees are treated in the same way. If you can find evidence that other employees have been paid whilst having an appointment, then you could have an argument to raise a grievance with the employment tribunal about work hours. This would be on the grounds that there was a breach of the implied terms of your contract (custom and practice).

Time off work for emergencies

It’s also worth noting that you can usually get time off for emergencies. For example, you may be entitled to “dependent leave” if there’s an emergency with someone who depends on you. This includes a child, partner or someone you care for, such as an elderly parent. The law states you’re entitled to ‘reasonable’ time off to deal with the emergency. The emergency in question could be attending a medical or hospital appointment with them. You’ll essentially be getting unpaid time off for this.

For more information about holiday entitlement, check out this article. On the other hand, if your boss is making your life difficult, you might like to read our article ‘I hate my boss’ here.

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