Asking for time off work to attend a funeral

December 15, 2017

For many people, funerals are the chance to pay your respects, obtain closure and say goodbye to someone that you cared for deeply.

However, sometimes the practicalities of our lives can obstruct us from attending a funeral, such as our work commitments. While there are some legal guidelines which can help you to obtain the time you need away from work to attend a funeral, there are lots of grey areas and you might not know where you stand. Here we will look at your rights as well as how to approach the subject with your employer.

While there are no strict laws applying to bereavement leave, it is not uncommon for employers to allow you to take time off for a funeral. This is usually called ‘bereavement leave’ or ‘compassionate leave’ and is loosely defined under the Employment Rights Act (1996). However, it is quite typically restricted to members of your immediate family – i.e. spouses, partners, children, parents, grandparents, grandchildren and siblings.

If you are wishing to attend the funeral of someone who is not considered immediate family, such as close friends, then you may have to pursue other routes for attending the funeral. In this case the best thing to do is to speak to your employer. They may be willing to allow you to use a day of your annual leave or take unpaid leave to attend. The amount of time you will be permitted will depend on the circumstances and the nature of your job. You might be granted anywhere from several days to just a few hours to attend the funeral. This will depend on the scenario and your employers wishes.

In some workplaces there is a clear policy on when and how you can take bereavement leave and this should be outlined in your employee handbook or contract. However, smaller businesses may not have a clear policy, in which case you will need to discuss the situation with your employer. While this may seem like a daunting prospect, know that most employers understand the importance of allowing their employees to grieve and will do whatever they can to support them in a difficult time.

People process grief and loss in different ways and you may find that you are not ready to return to work after your initial time to attend the funeral is over. If this happens then you should keep an open dialogue with your employer. If you feel you cannot return straight away then you may be able to request use of your annual leave allowance, or if you feel you may need a lengthy period of time away then you may want to discuss the option of long-term compassionate leave which would typically be unpaid.

For help and advice on organising a funeral, please contact us on 0151 228 3900, or leave us a message through our contact us page by clicking here.