The EAT considered the application of section 57A Employment Rights Act 1996 (the right to time off to care for a dependent) in Royal Bank of Scotland v Harrison. Section 57A provides that an employee may take a reasonable amount of time off where, among other reasons, there has been an unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of a dependant. In this case, Mrs Harrison was informed on 8 December that her childminder was unavailable for 22 December. She tried to make alternative care arrangements but was unable to find cover. On 13 December she asked her employers for the day off. After a week’s delay she was told that she could not take the day off and, if she did, it would be treated as unauthorised absence. Having no alternative, Mrs Harrison stayed at home on 22 December and was issued with a verbal warning by her employer. Her appeal against the warning failed and she brought a claim against RBS that they had subjected her to a detriment.

The EAT held that Parliament had provided, as it was entitled to do, wider statutory protection than that required by the EC Parental Leave Directive. It held that the tribunal did not err in finding that the period between 13 December and 22 December, in the circumstances, was sufficiently short that the disruption could be seen as ‘unexpected’. It rejected RBS’s argument that the disruption should amount, in effect, to an emergency.