Losing a loved one is one of life’s most difficult obstacles to face, but sadly it is something most people will experience at some point during their career.
In the event of a loss it is important to allow a period of time off work to grieve, as well as to undertake any essential duties and spend some time with family.
But what are you legal rights to time off work?
Entitlement to bereavement leave
Bereavement leave (or compassionate leave) is the period of time an employee is granted time off work following the death of a family member or loved one.
All employees are entitled to a period of time off work for family or ‘dependents’, according to the Employment Rights Act 1996.
This grants a “reasonable amount of time off” to deal with an emergency situation, although there is no set amount of time as it depends on the circumstances.
A ‘dependant’ could be a spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent, or someone who relies on your for care.
How much time off can you take?
There is no set length of time which workers must be given as part of bereavement leave entitlement, although the usual period of time is typically between three and five days.
If you need to extend your bereavement leave past the average amount, permission will depend on your employer and the individual situation.
Employees could apply to use a period of their annual leave if they feel they need more time than is being offered.
Will I get paid?
There is no statutory right for an employer to pay for bereavement leave, although some may have a policy which permits a few days of paid time off.
Employees can check their contract, company handbook, or intranet site to find out what their company’s policy is on this.
How do I ask for time off?
The process for requesting bereavement leave will vary across different companies, but will normally be outlined in your employee contract or handbook.
Employees will usually be required to notify their employer as soon as possible, or in the event of an emergency, let them know at the earliest opportunity.
Will I have to provide proof?
Some employers may ask for evidence as to why an employee is taking bereavement leave, although this must be a reasonable request.
This could involve providing a death or funeral notice.
Details of whether you will need to provide these documents will be outlined in your employment contract.