Guide To Bereavement Leave

No one relishes the prospect of an awkward conversation with their manager, having to explain who has died and why time off is needed. It is for this reason it is recommend that employers have a bereavement or compassionate leave policy written into their staff handbooks. This will ensure individual managers aren’t faced with difficult decisions as to whether or not to grant the leave.

What is bereavement leave? : Bereavement leave is additional time off work that is granted to people who have recently experienced the death of a loved one.

There is no statutory right for you to have paid leave after bereavement, but workers are entitled to a reasonable period of unpaid time off for dependants. Most companies will have a policy on this and you can find this out by talking to your HR team or looking in your staff handbook.

When can I take time off? : By virtue of the Employment Rights Act 1996, all workers are entitled to ‘time off for dependants’.

This means you should get a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with unforeseen matters and emergencies involving a dependant, including time off to arrange or attend a funeral.

A dependant is defined as:

  • a spouse
  • a partner
  • a child
  • a parent
  • an individual the employee provided care for

However, problems can arise if you suffer a loss of someone not classed as a dependant. Many employers will have a policy for compassionate leave that can be found in contracts of employment or staff handbooks. In the absence of such a policy, the question of whether to grant bereavement leave for a non-dependant falls to the discretion of the individual employer.

How much leave are you legally entitled to? : There is no set length of leave which workers must be given. The website suggests that often ‘one or two days should be enough’ but, over and above this, employer discretion once again comes into play.

Will you be paid? : There is no statutory right to be paid. Many employers may offer this as a policy choice or as a matter of discretion.

What if you need more time off? : Again, this comes down to employer discretion. If you feel that you need longer than you’re being offered by your employer then you can apply to use a period of your annual leave.


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