Bereavement & Compassionate Leave Guide for employers

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compassionate leave

When an employee experiences a bereavement, employers might decide to allow for compassionate leave.

When someone experiences the loss of someone close to them, offering the time that they need to deal with their affairs, attend a funeral or simply to grieve can benefit both the employee and the employer.

Bereavement leave (or compassionate leave) gives an employee time off work after the death of a loved one. There is no current requirement for employers to offer bereavement leave, but many employers decide that it is something they want to do. If you want to offer compassionate leave to your employees, there are a few things to consider.

Bereavement & Compassionate Leave

The Law

There is nothing in the law that says that employers must provide bereavement leave for their employees.

The Employment Rights Act 1996 does give employees the right to time off to deal with emergencies. However, this only covers the immediate period when dealing with the death of a dependent. It doesn't extend to time off to grieve, so employers aren't obligated to give it. 

However, many employers do decide to use their discretion to give time off to employees who have experienced a bereavement. It might not be required, but it is the action of a compassionate employer.

Guidelines from ACAS

If you want to offer bereavement leave for employees, you might find that the guidelines from ACAS are useful. 

Their guidelines for bereavement in the workplace offer advice on how to create a policy that works for you and your employees. They suggest best practice, such as having a clear policy and training managers, involving trade unions or a staff representative and offering a flexible approach to returning to work.

You can find the full guidance from ACAS on their website to find out what their recommendations entail.

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Reasons to Create a Bereavement Policy

There are several excellent reasons to create a bereavement policy and offer compassionate leave to your employees.

One reason to have a policy is simply because you are very likely to have to deal with employees who ask for bereavement leave at some point during their time with you. It's best to be prepared and to make sure both you and your employees know what to expect when someone is dealing with a bereavement. It might not be legally required, but it's still strongly recommended to have a bereavement policy.

Another great reason to have a bereavement policy is that it shows that you are a compassionate employer who cares about your staff. It helps you to uphold caring values, and creates employees who are appreciative of the support you are able to offer them.

Finally, offering compassionate leave to employees is simply good for them and good for the productivity of your business. Giving them time to grieve and manage the effects of a bereavement helps to ensure their happiness, which helps them to perform better at work.

Creating a bereavement policy isn't legally required, but it is strongly advised if you want to be clear about how you handle staff bereavements.

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About the author

James Rowland

Account Services


James is on the Business Development & Account Management team at Neathouse Partners and regularly posts articles surrounding issues in HR & Employment Law, including case law & legislation updates. If you have a particular issue you would like addressed, feel free to drop James an email, and he will be happy to offer his assistance.

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