HR Expert: Paid Bereavement Leave
My client wants to know if they have to offer their employees paid bereavement leave by law?

Many employers offer paid bereavement leave to staff in recognition that the days immediately following a personal loss can be particularly sensitive time. Allowing staff sufficient time away from work in these situations is often seen as an integral part of the grieving process, however this is not actually a legal requirement.

Therefore, from your client’s perspective there is no need to offer staff paid bereavement leave unless they choose to do so. Whilst employees will have the statutory right for unpaid time off to tend to a dependant in an emergency situation, this will usually last no more than two days per instance. As such, if your client decides to offer extended bereavement leave then they will be free to set their own rules on how much time is allowed and whether individuals will be entitled to full pay during this time.

Your client may be concerned about the impact that allowing bereavement leave will have on their organisation, as the thought of staff taking a considerable amount of time off may cause concerns over productivity. However, failing to allow sufficient time off for bereavement leave may encourage the development of depression or other mental health issues, which could have a more substantial long-term impact on workplace performance.

If your client is set against offering bereavement leave then they could perhaps allow a degree of flexibility when it comes to booking annual leave in these situations. They should consider that a bereavement can occur suddenly and take this into consideration if staff submit short-notice requests for extended time off. Enabling annual leave in these situations will ensure individuals are given sufficient time off to recover, without affecting your client’s annual budget.

Having said this, your client should understand that the law around bereavement leave is changing and from April 2020 the specific right to parental bereavement leave will be introduced. As a result, employees will be granted a 2-week period of statutory bereavement leave if they lose a child under the age of 18. Whilst the period of leave is considered a day one right, parents will need to have 26 weeks’ continuous service to be eligible for statutory parental bereavement pay during this time.

With the above in mind your client is advised to consider whether offering paid bereavement leave is a viable option for their organisation. Although there is no requirement to do so yet, making this available to employees could be a great way to foster a positive company culture and provide staff with much needed support in difficult circumstances.

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