Losing someone you love is never easy.
That’s why it’s important to ensure you allow yourself an appropriate amount of time off work to grieve, as well as organise any other essential duties you may need to fulfil. But how much time off is permitted, and how do you ask your employer?
Here’s everything you need to know about bereavement leave:
What is bereavement leave?
Bereavement leave (also known as compassionate leave) is an agreed upon time off of work an employee takes following the death of a family member or loved one.
The time allows individuals to make funeral arrangements, and complete tasks such as organising the deceased’s possessions and will, as well as pay their respects and begin the grieving process, in the event of the death of a loved one.
Am I entitled to bereavement leave?
According to the Employment Rights Act 1996, UK employers are obligated to give employees an unpaid “reasonable” number of days off following the death of a family member, or dependent.
Who are classed as family members?
This is usually defined as a spouse, partner, child, parent, brother, sister, grandparent, aunt/uncle, niece/nephew, or someone the employee cared for.
However, the rules for this are far from defined, meaning the death of people outside of your immediate family, such as friends, may be considered as grounds for allowing bereavement leave.
How much time off can I take?
There is no set amount of time an employer should allow when it comes to bereavement leave, and it’s usually given at their own discretion, depending on the situation.
Some may specify a set number of days, whilst others will make their decision on a case-by-case basis. On average, businesses will most commonly permit around 2-5 days.
This allows the employee to deal with an unforeseen emergency, along with the arranging and attending of a funeral.
Will I get paid?
Whilst employers have no legal obligation to pay employees while they are on bereavement leave, some may choose to.
To find out if your company offers paid bereavement or compassionate leave, check your employment contract or employee handbook.
What if I need more time off?
Whether you’re able to extend your bereavement leave past the average amount will once again depend on your employer and the individual situation.
If you need longer than is being allowed, always speak to your company’s HR team directly to see what other options are available.
Will my bereavement leave run out?
Bereavement/compassionate leave is completely separate to other types of leave (e.g. time off sick, annual leave), and doesn’t accumulate or formally ‘run out’.
Will I have to provide proof?
Some employers may ask an employee for evidence of the reason an employee is taking bereavement leave, although this must be a reasonable request.
This could be, for example, an obituary, or a death or funeral notice.
Details of whether you’ll need to provide these documents can be found in your employment contract.
How do I ask for bereavement leave?
The process for requesting bereavement leave will vary from company to company, and will usually be outlined in your employee handbook or contract.
Usually, it will involve telling your employer as soon as possible. If it’s an emergency, letting them know after you leave work, at your earliest opportunity, is recommended.
Finally, it’s important to remember that every situation is different. However, you should never feel pressured to go back to work before you’re ready.
If you feel like the bereavement leave you’ve received isn’t enough, talk to your employer. Most are extremely understanding in situations like these, and will be willing to provide you with extra time off if you need it.
After all, they have a vested interest in the wellbeing of their employees, and providing the time off is warranted and reasonable, should be able to come to an arrangement that suits everyone involved.
Finally, if you’re unhappy with the treatment you’re receiving, or your employer has denied you any bereavement leave, consider raising a grievance with your HR team directly to find out more about your options.
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