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Should There Be Paid Bereavement Leave?

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Recent surveys have shown that one-third of employees who had suffered a bereavement in the past five years felt they had not been treated with compassion by their employer.

Andrew Egan

Andrew Egan

Employment lawyer, Andrew Egan of Newbury firm, Charles Lucas & Marshall says bereavement leave is highly subjective and tricky for employers who have no legal requirement to provide paid leave for those in mourning.

“Workers have a right to reasonable time off but for how many days and whose death qualifies for bereavement leave?” he asks.
A government website suggests that often ‘one or two days should be enough’ but the length and pay status of the time off depends on the discretion of the employer. Typically, bereavement leave may be about three to five days.

For additional time off, grieving workers would have to eat into their holiday leave or get signed off sick. The TUC says there should be a statutory minimum of paid bereavement leave, plus the opportunity to take more if necessary.

“Every individual will react differently to bereavement,” says Andrew Egan, “but a clear policy, coupled with training, will help managers and HR teams to have the skills to deal with its affect in the workplace.”

When thinking about a return to work, some employees may feel able to come back sooner, but this often depends on their relationship with the person who died and the circumstances around the death.

Employers could consider a flexible approach such as part-time hours or flexible working, particularly if the staff member must negotiate new caring responsibilities.

In September 2014, ACAS published non-binding guidance on managing the impact of bereavement in the workplace.
All employees are entitled by law to reasonable time off work to deal with an emergency such as bereavement. However, reasonableness is not defined and the law only entitles an employee to unpaid leave.

“An alternative is to make the grant of any bereavement leave purely discretionary,” says Andrew Egan. “Following discussion between the employee and management, a decision can then be taken about how much leave to offer and what proportion of that should be paid, if any.”
 
It is important managers seek to understand the extent to which an employee wishes for the employer to keep bereavement issues confidential from customers and colleagues. Announcements and internal communications should be handled in a sensitive manner to protect employee relations, as well as avoiding potentially breaching requirements under the Data Protection Act 1998.

For further information please contact Andrew Egan on 01635 521212 or andrew.egan@clmlaw.co.uk

Written by Andrew Egan

February 26th, 2015 at 8:00 am