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Call For Statutory Parental ‘Bereavement Leave’

Call For Statutory Parental ‘Bereavement Leave’

bereavement leave employment policies

An MP has urged parents to be guaranteed ‘bereavement leave’ when they lose a child.

Will Quince, the Conservative MP for Colchester, describes as scandalous the current situation where there is no statutory right to take time off on compassionate or bereavement grounds.

He says that although all employees have the right to take immediate “time off for dependents” under the Employment Rights Act 1996, there is no set limit of how many days can be taken as leave and an imprecise definition of a “reasonable amount of time”. Furthermore, he notes that there is no statutory right to be paid during this “reasonable amount of time”.

He wants the Employment Rights Act 1996 amended in order to give parents who have suffered the loss of a child a legal right to two weeks’ paid leave at the equivalent of statutory maternity leave.

Should employers offer paid bereavement leave?

The length and pay status of any time off which is granted after bereavement depends on the employee’s contract and the discretion of the employer. Typically, bereavement leave is about three to five days and grieving staff would then have to use holiday allocation or get signed off sick.

The Trades Union Congress has called for a statutory minimum of paid bereavement leave, and an option to take more if necessary.

“We’re in a difficult economic time and where an individual loses a member of their family they shouldn’t be worried about their earnings as well as taking care of their loved ones,” says Hannah Reed, the TUC’s senior employment rights officer.

However, Guy Bailey, head of employment and employee relations at the Confederation of British Industry, opposes such legislation. He says “When a member of staff has suffered a bereavement, employers will want to show compassion . . . [but] The right solution is the one that works for the individual. That can vary from person to person.”

Petra Wilton, from the Chartered Management Institute, has also said that a one-size-fits-all statutory entitlement is not the solution. “Being flexible and understanding what an employee is experiencing can help managers find a mutual agreement that meets the needs of both the employee and the employer,” she says.

She added: “Employers do need to think about what policies they have in place and whether their managers have the skills needed to handle sensitive conversations and to offer greater flexibility, which can make a huge difference at a time of distress.”

How employers can support bereaved staff in the workplace

Acas offers a best practice guide to help employers support bereaved staff at work.

Commenting on the importance of good practice in this area, the chair of the conciliation service Brendan Barber said: “There is an organisational cost if managers get it wrong . . . A compassionate and flexible approach to managing bereavement can show commitment from an employer.”

Acas says its guidance can help employers prepare for managing bereavement in the workplace by having a clear bereavement policy and by training managers and selected staff to have compassionate and effective conversations with bereaved employees.

Half of workers would leave an employer that didn’t support them after bereavement

A survey of 4,038 people by the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC) indicates 56% of workers would consider leaving an employer that failed to support them after the death of someone close.

Four-fifths of respondents agreed that employers should be legally required to offer paid leave following the death of a close relative. Additionally, 87% of those polled said all employers should have a compassionate employment policy including flexible working as well as paid bereavement leave.

Eve Richardson, chief executive of NCPC and Dying Matters, said “Employers have an important role to play by being compassionate and having a bereavement policy in place. They should also ensure that they support their managers so that they are confident in having sensitive discussions about end of life issues with their staff.”

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