Bereavement in the workplace
The late passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has brought into focus the rights of employees during times of bereavement and bereavement in the workplace.
It is an inevitable reality that most people will suffer a bereavement at some point in their working life. It is therefore important that employers understand the time off and pay that a bereaved employee may be entitled to and their rights more generally to be able to support an employee in a timely, compassionate and lawful manner.
In March 2022, didlaw reported on the new guidance published by ACAS on 16 February 2022 with regards to bereavement in the workplace, bereavement leave and bereavement pay, which replaced the previous guidance and extended the definition of a dependent. That blog can be found here please check link
Acas’s revised guidance covers:
- leave and pay when someone dies;
- if an employee’s child dies;
- if an employee or their partner has a stillbirth or miscarriage;
- parental bereavement leave and pay;
- what to do after death of an employee;
- supporting an employee after a death;
- if someone at work dies; and
- the benefits of a bereavement policy
The legal position
Employees have the legal right to unpaid time off when a dependant dies or when their child is stillborn or dies under the age of 18 years. A dependant could be a spouse, partner or civil partner, a parent, or someone they live with or care for.
The law provides for an employee to be allowed a reasonable amount of time off to deal with unexpected issues and emergencies involving the dependant including leave to arrange or attend a funeral. Where the death relates to an employee’s child under 18 or a stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy, they will be entitled to two weeks of parental bereavement leave and subject to the parent meeting certain eligibility criteria, they could also be entitled to parental bereavement pay.
In circumstances where there is no legal right to time off and the employer does not offer bereavement leave, the guidance recommends that employers exercise compassion and recognise the trauma and distress that can arise when an employee has lost someone close to them, albeit not biologically or legally connected.
Employers are encouraged to consider paying an employee during bereavement on compassionate grounds or allowing the use of annual leave, sick leave, or unpaid leave as alternatives. It is advised that discussions are held between the employer and employee to discuss the circumstances and to have a clear policy setting out an employee’s entitlement to leave and pay to avoid uncertainty and ensure equal treatment whilst recognising that everyone deals with bereavement differently.
For further information go to: https://www.acas.org.uk/time-off-for-bereavement
At didlaw, we recognise that everyone is different and pride ourselves in dealing with all of our clients with care and compassion. If these issues in this blog affect you and we can be of any support or assistance please do not hesitate to get in touch.
This blog is written by Kate Lea, Senior Solicitor for didlaw