1. Applying for leave in special circumstances

1.1 Employees should discuss applications for leave in special circumstances with their supervisor/ manager/ Head of Department stating:

  • the category of leave in special circumstances they are applying for
  • the reason(s) for the application for leave in special circumstances
  • the period of leave in special circumstances that they are applying for, including dates

1.2 The University recognises that requests for leave in special circumstances are often urgent and cannot always be made in advance. When possible though, employees should apply in advance and put their reasons for needing the leave in writing on the special circumstances form [docx]. Verbal agreement to leave in special circumstances may be granted but a retrospective application should be made and kept as a record.

2. Considering and deciding on an application

2.1 The supervisor/manager/ Head of Department should:

  • discuss the application with the employee and, where necessary, gather more information
  • first consider with the individual the options available including whether any other type or combination of leave is more appropriate
  • decide whether any leave in special circumstances is to be paid and/or unpaid - unless already specified in the policy
  • consider applications fairly on the basis of individual circumstances and service needs
  • use their discretion in agreeing the amount of time off, reasonably, consistently and fairly
  • where a request is refused or not allowed in full, communicate to the employee the reasons for the decision
  • when considering requests for leave to undertake voluntary public service, line managers/Heads of Department should discuss with the individual the impact on the role within the Department. In cases of doubt HR may be consulted for advice.

2.2 If the decision is disputed this is managed through the University's grievance procedure.

2.3 The supervisor/manager/Head of Department should consider that regular, or repeated requests for leave in special circumstances, may indicate underlying problems for which the employee assistance scheme
or some other intervention may be appropriate.

3. Recording the decision

3.1 The supervisor/manager/Head of Department should keep a record of the decision including:

  • whether leave in special circumstances is agreed
  • the amount of any leave awarded and whether it is to be paid and/or unpaid
  • full reasons for the decision
  • the category of leave in special circumstances agreed
  • notify payroll if the leave is unpaid, and
  • notify HR Services if the leave is unpaid for over one calendar month, as HR will write to the employee at this point to confirm arrangements

4. Starting leave in special circumstances

4.1 The supervisor/manager/Head of Department should:

  • put in place keep in touch arrangements with the employee before starting leave in special circumstances, especially in long term cases
  • be aware that it is generally unreasonable to rescind leave in special circumstances once it has been granted unless the reason for the application has changed.

5. Returning to work after leave in special circumstances

5.1 The supervisor/manager/Head of Department should:

  • arrange to meet with the employee and generally welcome them back to work, bring them up to date with any work matters that have arisen in their absence. If appropriate, check whether they whether they need any particular support as they return to their duties
  • be aware that if an employee fails to resume duty after a period of paid/unpaid leave in special circumstances, the continued absence must be treated as unauthorised from the time the employee should have returned to work, and would therefore be unpaid

6. Continuity of service

6.1 An employee who takes leave in special circumstances will continue to be an employee of the University as set out in their contract of employment.

7. Pension

7.1 It is the responsibility of the individual employee to check the impact, if any, that leave in special circumstances may have on their pension arrangements. This will vary according to the rules of the scheme they are in.


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  • Last reviewed and updated: 26 February 2020