Bereavement for anyone is a sensitive issue. As the country mourns the Queens passing, we see that bereavement, grief and loss can cause many different symptoms and they affect people in different ways. Collective grief happens when a community experiences a significant loss together and these kinds of major events can impact us even if we didn’t personally know those who have died. There is no right or wrong way to feel.
But losing someone important to us can be emotionally devastating – whether that be a partner, family member or friend and can impact our ability to work. Compassionate or bereavement leave is time employers grant employees off work for death in their family or of a close loved one, allowing them time to grieve, make arrangements and attend the funeral. Bereavement leave is usually given for the death of immediate family members but can extend to relatives and even friends depending on the employer’s policy and your responsibilities.
There isn’t actually a law to protect an employee’s right to bereavement leave. However, the Employment Rights Act 1996 gives employees the right to take time off to deal with an emergency situation, which includes the death of a dependent but there isn’t any statutory right to be paid for bereavement leave. There is no set legal amount of time off work you are entitled to after someone has died. It is common for employers to give about three to five days, but all organisations have different policies and/or exercise their discretion differently.
Typically, compassionate leave in the UK is 3-5 days long for the loss of an immediate family member (spouse, civil partner, partner, sibling and children), 2-3 days for less close relationships (grandparents, grandchildren, step parents) and 1 day for in-laws, aunts, uncles and cousins. Employers need to provide paid bereavement leave if an employee has lost a child under 18 or had a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. This is called ‘parental bereavement leave pay’.
But many employers do offer paid bereavement leave and realise that having the opportunity to grieve the death of a loved one is essential – losing someone is traumatic enough as it is, without dealing with the stress of battling for time off of work and by offering this helps employees feel supported while they’re trying to cope with the loss of a loved one. Paid bereavement leave can promote a productive workplace because it gives employees time to grieve and recover from their loss and can also promote loyalty because it’s a sign of empathy and compassion in their time of need.
A bereavement leave policy will clarify in advance what kind of support is available to employees during difficult situations. For example, how many bereavement leave days will be authorised, whether the bereavement leave will be paid or unpaid, or if the company provides counselling or support groups. It’s vital for organisations to develop, and act on, bereavement policies that offer long-term support to bereaved employees and that recognise individual circumstances.
We realise that bereavement isn’t the most uplifting of topics, but it’s an experience that affects us all. For further information on bereavement leave and polices, please contact us here.