A surprising number of workers struggle to take time off work to visit their dentist.

We have found more than half of workers are not allowed to take paid time off work to visit their dentist.  

Millions of people have taken sick time off work due to poor oral health over the past year. Around one in eight (13 per cent) took time off without pay to visit their dentist and nearly three in every ten (29 per cent) took holiday or visited the dentist in their own time.

It is discretionary for a company to choose to give an employee time off work to visit the dentist but unless the contract of employment says so, it is not a legal requirement.

It is, therefore, possible for an employer to ask its staff to take a dental appointment outside of working hours, take annual leave or make the time up in another way. Employers and employees should check the contract of employment to see what rights staff members have in taking time off for dental visits.

The situation is even worse for parents, with just around one in four (23 per cent) employees allowed to take paid time off work to take their children to the dentist. Approaching two thirds (62 per cent) of parents said they have either took unpaid leave or holiday to take their children to the dentist.

Again, it is at the discretion of the organisation as to whether they let employees take their children to check-ups during working hours. Given that dental practices operate their own hours, it is possible to book appointments after the school and working day.

If a child or close family member has a dental emergency, a person is entitled to deal with the problem. This is known as ‘dependent leave’ but will not be paid unless the contract of employment says so.

If an employee is disabled and their oral health is connected with the disability, they should be entitled to attend a dental appointment. Click here to find out how disability can affect a person’s oral health.

Employers should take time to discuss dental visits with employees by:

  • Communicating the value of dental visits and encouraging regular attendance.

  • Clearly explaining employee rights and the company’s policy in terms of dental visits.

  • Clarifying that dental practices often take patients after traditional work and school hours.

  • Be flexible and understanding to an employee’s needs if they are unable to get an appointment outside of working hours.

  • Offer a comfortable environment and a place of trust where employees and come to them with concerns about their health.

Significant numbers of people are forced to miss work each year unnecessarily due to oral health.

It is important for employers to understand that poor oral health is increasingly being linked to other more serious medical conditions such as diabetes, strokes and heart problems, which cause even greater difficulties for absenteeism.

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