A Guide to Bereavement and Compassionate Leave

October 15, 2023

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is always a difficult time, and you may find yourself needing to take time off from work to not only grieve but take care of any arrangements too. Today we are going to run through exactly what you are entitled to when it comes to compassionate leave.

What is Compassionate Leave?

Compassionate leave is also known as bereavement leave and is time off work given to people who have recently lost a loved one. By temporarily removing work from their life, it gives the bereaved a chance to go through the process of grief, as well as attending and arranging the funeral itself.

You may be surprised to hear that employers are not legally obliged to give their employees compassionate leave, but most will have some sort of policy surrounding this. The best thing to do is check your contract of employment to see what you are entitled to.

Time Off for Compassionate Leave

Under the Employment Rights Act of 1996 (applicable to those living in England, Wales, and Scotland), workers are entitled to ‘time off for dependents’. These can be defined as your spouse, parents, children, or other person who relies on you for care. This law doesn’t stipulate the length of time off employees should be granted, but between 2-5 days is the most common. It is at the discretion of your employer to decide how long you will be given for compassionate leave. There is always the option to add paid annual leave to your absence if you don’t feel the amount of time you have been given is enough.

When it comes to being paid for compassionate leave, there is no statutory right that entitles you to paid leave after a bereavement. Again, it is worth checking your contract of employment to see if your employer has a policy regarding this.

Asking for Compassionate Leave

Asking to take time off is always difficult, let alone when you have a bereavement to deal with too. Take time to read your employer’s policy around bereavement before you have the conversation with them, as this will ensure you are prepared for what they will say. It also gives you the opportunity to ask for clarification on any points within your contract surrounding bereavement that you are unsure of.

Emails are often easy to hide behind, but it really is important that you go and have a face-to-face chat with your manager in this instance. They can take you through all the formalities and help to support you through this difficult time.

Returning to Work

Employers are likely to be very sympathetic when it comes to a member of their team returning to work after a bereavement and will understand if you need additional time off. Keep the conversation open, and ask for help when you need it. There may even be the option of working flexibly to start with, splitting your time between home and the office, to help ease you back into a full working day.

We hope this guide has helped answer some of your questions on compassionate leave, remember it is important to put yourself first during these difficult times. Your employer should be there to support you in any way that helps you, so make sure you communicate what you need from them.