Can I Take Time Off To Attend An Interview?

Can you take time off to attend to a job interview? So for whatever reasons, you’ve decided to leave your current employer.

The application forms and CV’s have been carefully sent out and you’ve finally landed an interview for a job which you are very keen to get. Unfortunately the interview is on a work day and you’ve used up all of your annual holiday. What do you do?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is not an uncommon problem. Estimates suggest that 85-90% of all interviews take place during ‘normal working hours’. Therefore if you change jobs 10 times in your career and have an average of about 6 weeks a year of paid holiday, you are almost certain to face this dilemma at least once in your working life.

What are the options?

Skive off on the excuse that you are sick

If you do that and get caught, you could and should face disciplinary action. At the very least you will be fined and your record will be blemished. If your ‘new’ company takes references with your old one, this is not going to sound well.

Skive off but say a child or other dependent relative is ill

You are entitled to statutory unpaid leave in these circumstances but, again, if you get caught you could be in hot water. The fact that it’s unpaid leave does not get you off the hook.

Skive off and say you’re going to the dentist (for example)

Your employer must give you time off to go for medical appointments (a visit to the dentist counts as one although your employer may ask why you could not get one during your break). Unless your contract says otherwise, your employer is not obliged to pay you.

Ask for unpaid leave

It’s honest but your employer is not obliged to give you any time off – paid or unpaid – for anything other than your annual leave, public holidays, closures of your place of work, medical appointments, incapacity or times of personal crisis. Your boss is perfectly entitled to refuse you, in which case you have blown your cover. Any subsequent absence could then result in disciplinary procedure.

Tell your boss that you’re going for an interview and you want time off

Well, good for you. If you’ve got an understanding boss then you go with the company’s blessings. Of course, if you are refused, you’ve shown your hand. It also begs the question – if you’ve got such an understanding boss, why are you leaving?

As you can see, it’s a knotty problem. In most cases, your employer will not refuse you unpaid leave and will probably not question why you’re taking it or what you’re doing (although they’ll probably guess). With the exception of some jobs (e.g. the uniformed services), disciplinary action following unauthorised unpaid leave is unlikely to count as gross misconduct therefore you would not be dismissed as a consequence. Of course, the question arises about what happens if you have already had a second warning.

It’s hard to imagine an employer sacking someone for taking unauthorised unpaid leave but it could happen (and probably has).

Check what your contract of employment says about time off. If you go against your employer’s wishes, that is what it will come down to in the end.

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