Managing bereavement leave in the workplace

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When tech giant Facebook announced a doubling of its bereavement leave allowance for staff, it brought into focus what can often be a grey area for employers.

Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, who lost her husband in 2015, said the company’s change in policy was driven by a need for “public policies that make it easier for people to care for their children and aging parents and for families to mourn and heal after loss.”

Sadly, most people will experience the loss of a loved one at some stage in their career, meaning that as an employee they will need to be out of the business, usually with short notice, for an undetermined period of time.

Under current UK employment law, there is no statutory entitlement to bereavement leave, with the exception of a number of limited circumstances.

The UK’s Employment Rights Act 1996 gives employees a right to time off to deal with an emergency situation, which includes the death of a dependent.

But the law does not allow for additional time for grieving.

It’s imperative therefore, that a clear policy is in place.

While there will be no one size fits all approach, detailing a formal bereavement leave policy as a contractual entitlement should be seen as a must.

For the UK, Acas’ Managing bereavement in the workplace – a good practice guide advocates a compassionate approach demonstrating that the organisation values its employees.

In turn this can build and reinforce commitment, reduce sickness absence and retain the workforce.

By implementing a clear bereavement leave policy within employee contracts, employers can strengthen their relationships with staff and provide loyal support during difficult situations.

Employers and employees may further need to consider additional measures to help and support the bereaved employees’ return to work.

For further advice on policies that will work for your workplace, contact HR Team.

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