Bereavement leave explained

July 23, 2017

The days and weeks surrounding the loss of a loved one can be a very difficult time for anyone. Together with registering a death, informing friends and relatives, dealing with their property and their estate, and issues surrounding wills and probate, there are lots of things to take care of. With this in mind, many employees need to request time off from their employment so that they can get everything they need to in order. Equally, they may feel that the emotional weight of their loss just simply means that they will struggle to pick up where they left off back in the workplace. Here we look at your rights as an employee regarding bereavement and compassionate leave and how you can secure the time you need away from work.

Bereavement leave or compassionate leave is paid or unpaid time away from work following the death of a loved one. Many businesses and organisations will have a clear compassionate leave policy set out in their contracts or employee handbooks, however this isn’t always the case and sometimes, particularly with smaller businesses, it may be decided on a case by case basis. You could be granted just a single day of compassionate leave, or much longer depending on the scenario and your employer’s policy.

In the UK there is currently no legal requirement for an employer to provide paid leave in the event of bereavement. However, if the person who has passed away is your dependent (husband, wife, civil partner, children, parents, someone living with you or someone you provide care for) then you may be entitled to a ‘reasonable’ amount of bereavement leave under the Employment Rights Act (1996). If the person is not a dependent then you can still request compassionate leave but the decision will be left to your employer to make.

If you are not entitled under law to be granted leave then your employer will be left to make their own mind up. They will likely look at the needs of the business, how they have granted leave to other employees in the past and try and come up with a solution that is fair. However, if you feel you have been treated unfairly by being refused holiday time then you should speak with your employers in person to discuss things in more detail. After all, being denied the chance to take care of your loved one’s arrangements as well as giving yourself time to grieve could ultimately be more detrimental to your work than simply granting you leave.

In some cases you might feel that you are struggling to cope and the thought of going back to work right now seems too upsetting. In that case you should speak to your employer, but also to your GP who may be able to sign you off from work for a period of time. By talking to your employer you may be able to come to an arrangement that suits both parties, such as a phased return to work or even longer term compassionate leave until you feel ready to be back at work.

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.