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Blog Post: The A to Z of HR - B is for Bereavement Leave

You may or may not be aware, but there is no entitlement to paid bereavement leave for employees. Yes, there is the right to unpaid emergency domestic leave to deal with the immediate issues relating to the death of a dependant, but that is as far as it goes. Many employers will allow some compassionate leave and this ranges from 1 day for those just attending the funeral up to typically about a week if the employee is actually involved in arranging the funeral. However, the amount of time allowed and whether it is paid or unpaid varies widely from employer to employer and is usually specified as being discretionary depending on the circumstances.

There is a right for paid leave for parents of children who die under the age of 18 or suffer a still birth after 24 weeks, which came into force in 2020. Fortunately that will not apply to most of us, for whom losing a more elderly relative is more common.

This is not something I had thought much about before, never having had to deal with such a situation. But my Mum died a few years ago and it took a while to find out just how much there is to do when a family member dies – never mind the emotional grieving. Having to provide support for my Dad; deal with the undertakers; register the death; decide what sort of funeral service to hold and when; proof-read the orders of service and notices to be published; choose the flowers; make arrangements for the wake afterwards (and believe me, it is very difficult to find somewhere not already booked up for Christmas parties in December to hold the event); notify all the relevant government bodies (HMRC, DWP etc.) as well as all the relevant banks and building societies with whom Mum had accounts, is all very time-consuming. Fortunately, I have also had some help from my sister, but she too has a job and a family to juggle whilst dealing with this and we both live a long way from our parents’ home. This is just one example - everyone's family circumstances are different.

Then there is sorting out the will with the solicitors, writing the eulogy, notifying friends and family of the arrangements as well as dealing with well-wishers. And all that comes before even starting to think about the administration of her estate. One week – the period normally allowed for those affected is not nearly enough to get all of that done – even when matters are relatively straightforward. And for employees, not knowing whether they will be paid or not for the time they need have off is just another stress factor they could do without.

So, if you have a bereavement/ compassionate leave policy please have a think about what it allows and (assuming the business can afford it) how you can help your employees with paid leave to deal with such a situation.

If you want to make some changes and would like advice on that, please get in touch.
Posted on 13 Sep 2021
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