All employees have a statutory right to have reasonable time off to deal with an emergency relating to a dependant. This includes the bereavement of a dependant or immediate member of family. An immediate member of family refers to a spouse, civil partner, child, grandchild, parent, step-parent, sibling or anyone in a relationship of domestic dependency with the employee. In addition to that, a dependant can include anyone who relies on the employee for help during an emergency, for example an elderly neighbour.
However, this right only extends to time off to deal with the arrangements subsequent to the incident and is not intended for time to grieve. Although there is no statutory right for an employee to take bereavement leave, employer may want to consider granting time off as bereavement leave
Rules relating to any time off in order to grieve, rather than to make arrangements consequent to a death, is therefore up to the employer. Most employers acknowledge the difficulty in formulating a ‘one size fits all’ rule when it comes to compassionate leave or bereavement leave and simply have a policy that says management will exercise discretion dependent on the circumstances. However, if employers want something more concrete, it would be necessary to consider the scope of the policy itself; which family members will be covered? Will any non-family members be covered? Other considerations may be:
- Details as to whether the employee will be entitled to a paid period of bereavement leave, and how long;
- Whether any authorised unpaid leave may be allowed following exhaustion of paid leave;
- Whether the policy will be flexible dependent on the circumstances.
When deciding on the above, employers should be careful not to discriminate, either intentionally or unintentionally, on any of the protected characteristics contained within the Equality Act 2010. Similarly consideration should be made for employees of an ethnic minority, or those not originally from the UK and whom may need to travel abroad to make arrangements and/or attend a funeral. Employers may need to be flexible in circumstances such as these and employers should have discussions with the affected employee to determine how any extended time off will be classified.
For more information on Bereavement pay please contact our Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.