Taking bereavement leave
A recent survey into the practice around bereavement leave in the UK showed that almost all employers involved offered some kind of bereavement leave to employees. However, the nature of bereavement leave is quite hard to pin down. While the government says that workers are entitled to a “reasonable” amount of unpaid leave, the grieving process isn’t always easy to limit to a few days off. Here we take a look at the vague practices surrounding bereavement leave and what you’re entitled to.
Bereavement rights at the moment
At the moment, employees do not have a legal right to paid leave after someone close dies. In the Employment Rights Act, though, it’s stated that workers are entitled to ‘time off for dependants’. This means that you should get a reasonable amount of unpaid time to deal with the death of a ‘dependant’ – this is defined as a partner, a child, a parent or someone you provided care for.
What if the person who died isn’t a dependant?
When someone close to you dies who isn’t part of your family but was nevertheless an important person in your life, it can be hard to explain this to HR or over the phone to a bored line manager. Bereavement leave is quite a grey area, and a lot of the time it falls on the individual employer to make the call.
Most companies will have their own policy, or you might have an understanding and compassionate boss, but there’s no guarantee in place that you’ll be granted time off if someone dies who isn’t family or someone you cared for.
How much bereavement leave are you entitled to?
Again, there aren’t any definite terms written down in law for how much time off you’ll be given after someone dies. The GOV.uk website suggests that often ‘one or two days should be enough’ but, over and above this, it’s down to individual employers to make the decision.
In the survey by XpertHR, it was shown that very few employers offer more than 10 days’ paid bereavement leave. Sometimes, you might be expected back in work before you’ve worked through some of the grief. It might be worth getting some support in place – be it some counselling or a secure network of people to talk to. Head over to our Support page for more general information.
Can you be refused bereavement leave?
Due to the vague nature of your rights when it comes to taking time off after someone dies, there’s a possibility that the amount of leave you’re granted just isn’t enough. You can make an informal complaint if this is the case, or it might be that you use up your given holiday. If you’re refused time off you can raise the issue with The Citizens Advice Bureau, or ACAS can offer guidance as well as a solicitor.