Dealing with bereavement

Tina Chander outlines the legal requirements to deal with bereaved employees compassionately

Bereavement is inevitable, and as an employer, you will, at some point, be faced with an employee who has lost a loved one.

At such times, it can be challenging to find the right balance between protecting an employee’s mental well-being and sustaining business operations. But what legal responsibilities do employers have in these instances?

Outside of statutory parental bereavement leave, matters surrounding bereavement or compassionate leave are not defined within UK Employment Law. However, the Employment Rights Act 1996 does state that employees have the right to take ‘a reasonable amount of time’ off work to deal with emergencies relating to ‘dependents’, such as a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, or any person who is reliant upon their physical care.

Unless specified within a contract of employment or standalone policy, the law does not specify what ‘reasonable’ is, although it’s commonly considered to be around two to five days. However, this should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the nature of the employee’s relationship to the deceased and the circumstances surrounding their passing.

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