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The University will endeavour to grant reasonable time off to employees as set out below, taking in to consideration the operational needs of their Institution.

Q. Compassionate leave

The University recognises that employees may be faced with difficult personal circumstances involving the serious illness or death of a close relative. The University understands that, during these situations, employees may need to take time away from work.

Under these circumstances, the existing compassionate leave provisions under the Assistant Staff Rules, Assistant Staff Handbook, Staff Guide (for academic, academic-related and research staff) and Summary of Leave Table will apply.

Parental Bereavement Leave

Subject to eligibility, employees may be entitled to parental bereavement leave and pay, if their child or a child in their care has died or been stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Full details of the University’s provisions can be found in the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Policy and Procedure.

Further guidance on good practice is available for departments.

Q. Emergency leave

Emergency leave is intended to cover genuine and unforeseen emergencies involving dependants, or unexpected domestic emergencies. If however, an employee knows in advance that they are going to need time off (for instance to take their child to a hospital appointment), they should speak to their Head of Institution about the possibility of taking such time as part of their annual leave entitlement. Please also see the Adverse Weather Policy for details on the appropriate response in the case of adverse weather.


A Head of Institution may allow an employee to take paid leave to deal with unforeseen emergencies involving dependants, in accordance with these provisions. Under certain circumstances this leave may be taken together with compassionate leave. Normally up to 5 working days’ paid leave will be granted in any rolling 12-month period (with a limit of 2 working days’ paid leave permitted on any single occasion):

  • To deal with an unexpected disruption or breakdown in care arrangements for a dependant, for example, when a childminder is unavailable; or when a nursery or school is unexpectedly closed.
  • If a dependant falls ill, gives birth or has been involved in an accident or suffers some form of assault or harm.
  • To make appropriate care arrangements for a dependant who is ill, injured or in need of other forms of significant emergency care.
  • To deal with an incident or emergency involving an employee's child while they are at nursery, school or college.

The 5 working days’ paid leave entitlement above will be pro-rated for part-time employees. A ‘dependant’ is defined under this policy as an employee's spouse, civil partner, child (biological, adopted or fostered or for whom the employee has a legitimate responsibility), parent or someone who lives with the employee as part of their family (but is not a lodger or boarder) and who reasonably relies on the employee to provide or arrange care. A dependant may also be someone who does not necessary live at the same address as the employee but still reasonably relies on the employee for assistance or to arrange provision of care if they fall ill, give birth, are injured or assaulted, or where care arrangements break down unexpectedly. This may be where the employee is the primary carer or the only person who can help in an emergency, for example where an employee is a registered carer.

Leave for emergencies involving dependants as set out above should be reasonable in the particular circumstances of the emergency; it should be sufficient to deal with the immediate problem and to arrange alternative longer term care if required.  It is anticipated that in the majority of cases one or two days of leave on any one occasion will be sufficient. Where there are longer term care requirements, it may be more appropriate to request annual leave, parental leave or flexible working as appropriate.

Additionally, employees have a statutory right to reasonable time off (unpaid) in order to make arrangements to deal with unforeseen emergencies involving dependants. As such, where paid leave has been exhausted under these provisions, employees may be entitled to unpaid leave in the circumstances. Please see the relevant policies for further information.


An employee may request up to 1 day of unpaid leave (or annual leave) if they experience a severe and un-expected domestic emergency (unrelated to children or dependants) necessitating the employee's presence at home. Other severe emergencies are also included here and examples are provided below. Any additional time off should be taken as annual leave.

Examples of an emergency include but are not limited to:

  • Fire or flood at the employee's home.
  • A burglary at the employee's home.
  • A road accident or other similar accident involving the employee (excluding time off for illness or injury where the sickness absence policy will apply).
  • The breakdown or theft of the employee's car.

In determining whether a request for emergency leave should be granted the following factors should be taken into consideration:

  • The nature and extent of the emergency.
  • The availability of others to deal with the emergency.
  • The likely impact of the emergency on the employee.

Q. Carer’s Leave 

An employee from the first ‘day one’ of their employment with the University is entitled to up to 5 days of unpaid leave in a 12 month rolling period to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long term care need, which is defined as where the dependant:   

  • has an illness or injury (physical or mental) that requires, or is likely to require care for more than 3 months;  
  • has a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010;, or   
  • requires care for reasons connected to their old age.  

This entitlement is in addition to the Emergency Leave entitlement detailed above. The leave will be prorated for part time employees.  

For the purpose of this leave, the definition of a ‘dependant’ is the same definition of dependant used for Emergency Leave.   

The leave can be taken as a minimum of a half working day and a maximum of 5 working days. The leave need not be taken on consecutive days. The leave may be combined with annual leave. The entitlement is the maximum period irrespective of how many qualifying dependants an employee has.  

Employees must provide notice of their intention to take carer’s leave, confirming that they are entitled to the leave and the days or part of the days they propose to take.  

Q. Essential civic and public duties

The University will grant reasonable unpaid special leave to those employees who hold the following public positions (as defined in s.50 of the Employment Rights Act 1996):

  • Magistrate or Justice of the Peace.
  • Member of a Local Authority.
  • Member of any statutory tribunal.
  • Member of an independent monitoring board for a prison or a prison visiting committee.
  • Member of a relevant education body e.g. school board or equivalent education establishment.
  • Member of a relevant health body e.g. National Health Service Trust or a Health Board.
  • Member of a police authority.
  • Member of the Environment Agency or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.
  • Member of a Scottish Water or a Water Customer Consultation Panel.

The public body may also require the individual to attend training, additional meetings, or committees in order for them to fully perform their function. For the purposes of the leave application, these should be considered to be part of the individual's public duties.

In considering whether the leave application is ‘reasonable’, the Head of Institution will take the following factors into account:

  • How much time off is generally required for the performance of the office in question.
  • How much time off is required for the performance of the particular duty on the particular occasion.
  • How much time off has already been granted to the employee for public duties.
  • The employee's involvement in current departmental activities and the effect of their absence on the operational requirements of the department.

In all cases, employees must notify their Head of Institution, on appointment, if they hold membership of any of the organisations listed above, or if they take up membership of such organisations during their employment.

An individual should discuss their requirements for time off as early as possible in the application process and submit their leave application (CHRIS/68) as soon as they have confirmation of the dates of their public service. Employees should provide any additional documentation to their Head of Institution as required as evidence of the request and/or dates and times of their attendance.

Employees may also be considered for a period of unpaid special leave for the following reasons, however these will be considered on a case by case basis depending upon the specific circumstances.

  • To serve as a Special Advisor to the British Government (appointed under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010).
  • To serve or stand for election as Member of Parliament.
  • To serve as a Political Agent to candidates or prospective candidates in parliamentary elections.
  • To serve or stand for election in local government as an elected or co-opted member of a local authority.

Q. Service in the Reserve Forces

All volunteer members of the Reserve Forces (the Territorial Army, Royal Naval Reserve, Royal Marines Reserve or Royal Auxiliary Air Force) who are required to undertake training on a normal working day, and are unable to reschedule the event, will be required to take annual leave or may request unpaid leave in order to attend.

Employees called up for compulsory military service under the Reserve Forces Act (1996) must immediately notify their Head of Institution, providing any necessary documentation.

The University cannot prevent an employee who is called up from attending military service, but can appeal against the decision if they feel the employee's absence will cause serious detriment to the University. For further advice please contact the relevant HR Business Partnering Team.

Where an employee is called up for active duty by the UK government, their absence will be treated as a period of unpaid leave. Whilst this period of leave will not break continuity of employment, it will not count in computing the employee's length of continuous employment.

The employee will have the right to be re-employed at any time during a 6 month period after the end of their military service to the same position and on terms and conditions which are no less favorable than those which previously applied. If total reinstatement is not reasonable and practicable, the employee will be offered the most favorable terms and conditions as are reasonable and practicable in the circumstances. The employee must apply in writing for reinstatement by the third Monday following the end of their military service (except where the employee is prevented applying within that period by reason of sickness or other reasonable cause).The University will not however be required to reinstate an employee if it would result in the dismissal of another employee who was employed before the reservist was called up for active duty, was as permanent as the reservist and who had longer service at the time of mobilisation.

In certain circumstances a return to work plan may be offered to an employee who has been involved in active duty. The plan will be developed in discussion with the employee, their Head of Institution, the HR Business Partnering Team and the University Occupational Health Service as required.

Non-UK nationals called up for compulsory national service by their home country should contact the relevant HR Business Partnering Team for advice.

Q. Jury service

If an employee is called up for jury service, they should contact their Head of Institution or Departmental Administrator at the earliest opportunity to discuss the matter. Jury service normally lasts for 10 working days, but may be longer. The employee should provide their Head of Institution with a copy of the jury summons, a completed CHRIS/68 and any other relevant documentation.

The University expects employees to seek reimbursement from Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS) wherever possible. To do this, the employee should:

  1. Send the Certificate of Loss of Earnings or Benefit they receive with their jury summons to payroll for completion.
  2. Submit the Certificate to HMCS to receive reimbursement for loss of earnings.
  3. Send the reimbursement receipt they receive from HMCS to payroll.

Employees will continue to be paid as normal whilst on jury service, until reimbursement for loss of earnings is confirmed by the court, at which point the University will make the appropriate deduction from their pay in the next monthly payroll. If the receipt for reimbursement is not received within 3 months of the end of the period of jury service, the University will make a deduction from the employee's salary in respect of those sums which are reclaimable from HMCS by the employee.

Where an Institution considers that an employee's absence on jury service will be severely detrimental to the operation of the Department, the employee may be asked to make an application for excusal or deferral, as appropriate. Where the Institution or employee considers that this applies, they should first discuss the matter with their HR Business Partnering Team. Where the Institution provides a letter (and any other relevant evidence) to support the employee's application, this should be submitted with the application for excusal or deferral. There is no guarantee that the University's support will ensure that a deferral will be granted by the court service.

Q. Attendance in court as a witness

If in a private capacity, an employee is summonsed to appear as a witness in third party proceedings or is required to give evidence in their own court proceedings they may request annual leave or in certain circumstances unpaid leave may be granted with the agreement of their Head of Institution.

Where unpaid leave or annual leave has been granted, the employee may retain any compensation for loss of earnings or other sums payable or ordered by the court. The employee may also retain any travelling and subsistence allowances received from the court.

Where an employee is called by the University to act as a witness on the University's behalf at an Employment Tribunal hearing or any other court proceedings, the employee will continue to receive their full pay, as this will be deemed part of their normal duties.

Q. Fertility treatment

Individuals who are following a course of fertility treatment and have been employed by the University for one continuous year are eligible to apply for fertility treatment leave. This includes employees with same-sex partners and single persons. Eligible employees who may request one of the entitlements below:

  • Female employees: Up to five days paid leave within a 12 month period to cover necessary treatment during a fertility treatment cycle.
  • Partners: Up to two days paid leave within a 12 month period to cover necessary treatment and to provide support during a fertility treatment cycle.

The 12 month period runs from the first day that leave is taken for the purposes of fertility treatment. Any unused entitlement to paid leave for fertility treatment during the 12 month period may not be carried forward and is forfeited.

If an employee requires additional time off, they may take a period of annual leave or unpaid leave by agreement with their manager. Alternatively, depending on the treatment being undertaken, an employee may wish to consider making an application for temporary flexible working.

If an employee becomes ill as a result of or during infertility treatment, subject to their compliance with the sickness absence policy, they should receive statutory or contractual sick pay in the usual way.

Further guidance is available for line managers from the HR Business Partnering Teams.

Q. Elective surgery/procedures

Time off for surgery, treatment and recuperation that relates to a medical or psychological condition and is supported by a medical certificate, will be treated as sick leave in the same manner as any other medical appointment.

In cases of elective surgery, annual leave should be taken in the first instance. In exceptional circumstances unpaid leave may be granted subject to operational needs of the institution. Elective surgery is surgery/procedures that is not considered to be medically necessary, including cosmetic surgery. Requests for time off for surgery, treatment and recuperation should follow the normal process for requesting annual leave. In the event that such treatment results in an employee becoming unfit for work, e.g. due to infection or other complications, the usual sickness absence provisions apply, including procedures for certification.

Please note that the University has separate detailed guidance on leave for fertility treatment and gender reassignment treatment. Further advice is available from the HR Business Partnering Teams.

Q. Gender reassignment

Requests for time off for medical treatment relating to gender reassignment will be managed and recorded in accordance with the University Ill-Health and Sickness Absence procedures. Time off for these purposes will be treated no more or less favourably than time off for illness or other medical appointments.

Reasonable requests for time off for non-medical treatment related to gender reassignment will be considered subject to operational requirements. Normally annual leave or unpaid leave will be considered for these purposes.

An employee may also request to take a period of leave before returning to work in their new gender. This should be discussed with their Head of Institution and annual leave or unpaid leave considered subject to operational requirements.

In all cases requests for time off should be discussed with an employee's Head of Institution at least 4 weeks prior to the commencement of the requested period.

Further guidance on gender reassignment is available from Equality & Diversity.

Q. Religious or belief-related obligations

The University of Cambridge is committed to equality of opportunity, promotes an inclusive culture and values diversity. Flexibility will be provided wherever possible to enable employees to take annual leave at a particular time so that they may celebrate and/or comply with their religious or belief-related obligations.

Further information on religion and belief, including a calendar of key diversity festivals, is available from Equality & Diversity.

Q. Voluntary work

The University recognises that some employees may wish to undertake voluntary work outside of their employment with the University.

Employees who wish to undertake voluntary work will need to use their annual leave entitlement for the days that they will be absent from work. In exceptional circumstances, with the Head of Institution's agreement and subject to operational needs, unpaid leave may be granted.

It is important that employees follow the usual procedure for requesting annual leave or unpaid leave and that this is sought as soon as possible after they are informed of acceptance to a voluntary position. Heads of Institution should endeavour to agree to such requests in line with operational needs.