"Will I be entitled to take some bereavement leave?"

August 1, 2015

Will I be entitled to take some bereavement leave?

It’s terrible to think that at some point in our lives we may experience the death of a loved one. This can be a particularly tough time for employees and it can also be as difficult a time for the employer, so how would you deal with it? This information will hopefully assist you and the employee to know how they stand in the eyes of the law.

Section 57(A) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 gives a “day one” right for an employee to have ‘reasonable’ time off work to deal with an emergency, such as a bereavement involving a dependant – see here for more details.

Here are some helpful tip for employers for when resources are stretched during bereavement leave:

  • Check your employee handbook to see what it states about bereavement leave, it may also be known as compassionate leave
  • There is no statutory right for employees to take leave and receive pay for this period, although discretion can be used to offer paid leave
  • There is no set period of time or an allowance that employees must be given.  Again, this comes down to the employers discretion and what you feel is a ‘reasonable’ amount of time
  • ‘Reasonable’ is a word that is never defined, this is completely your call how much time to allow your employee to take off
  • Look at other options too – could they use some annual leave or make some time up in the future? If offering this as an option, ensure you keep good records of any time taken.
  • Give the employee time to come to terms with their loss, ensuring the employee has enough time to accept the circumstances
  • Not allowing sufficient time for employees can be counter productive which may then result in a further period of absence
  • Refresh yourself with the Equality Act 2010 this protects employees with protected characteristics (PC) from discrimination. Ensure that if an employee has a PC that you don’t treat them any less favourably than other employees because of their PC

Ultimately, it is your call as the employer on how much time to allow employees to take off and whether they should also receive pay. Remember to do this fairly and consistently for all your employees and it should go smoothly.

Anita Manfredi of Employer Solutions – QCS Expert HR Contributor

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