Suspended for not going in after alerting employer of childcare issues

I notified my work several times that I would not be able to come to work on a certain day due to childcare issues. Leave for this day was not permitted, but I continually informed them that I would not be in. On the day in question I phoned the office but before the time stated in the employee handbook – no one answered. I did not go into work, but on return they have suspended me on gross misconduct for being AWOL and not following the attendance procedure. How do I stand?

You have a statutory right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid leave where there is “unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant”. This can include where you know about the disruption in advance, provided that it is unexpected. In a case involving a bank employee who was required to work over the Christmas period, she was found to have been unfairly given a warning for taking a day off when she had previously notified her employer that her childminder was unavailable. She had been given around two weeks’ notice and had tried unsuccessfully to arrange other cover.

If you are dismissed or given a warning for taking this day off, you may or may not have the right to bring a claim under this section depending on the nature of your childcare issues, how unexpected they were and to what extent you tried to obtain alternative cover.

If you have evidence that you tried to call the office (e.g. a screenshot of your phone showing the attempted call), you should make sure to submit this to the disciplinary hearing.

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