One of the most difficult situations you’ll ever have to face as an employer is when one of your employees loses a loved one.

When this happens, it’s only natural that your grieving employee will want to take time off to arrange or attend a funeral and to spend time with their family.

So how many days off are you entitled to for bereavement in the UK?

The answer isn’t straightforward, since there’s no specific law on the matter.

Defining bereavement leave entitlement

Bereavement leave entitlement is additional time off that your employees can take when someone close to them dies.

There is no statutory bereavement leave in the UK. Employees can take a “reasonable” number of days off as time off for dependants but this time is to deal with an emergency situation, including the death of a dependant. However, it doesn’t cover time off to grieve.

The Employment Rights Act 1996 defines a dependant as a spouse, partner, child, parent or individual that your employee provides care for.

There’s no set number of days that you must give your staff as part of bereavement leave entitlement in the UK. Acas suggests one or two days is enough time to deal with an emergency, but you might want to give your employee more time if they’re grieving. Many businesses give three to five unpaid days for bereavement leave.

Deciding on the right number of days can be tricky. On the one hand, you need to make sure you give your employee enough time to come to terms with their loss.

But on the other, if you give your employee too many days off, it might lead to them feeling lonely and isolated. This might then result in them taking sick leave and being absent from work for a prolonged period.

Paid bereavement leave entitlement

UK law doesn’t say that you must pay your staff for time off for dependants. But if a bereaved employee has been with you for a long time, you could offer them paid leave at your discretion.

However, if you deny bereavement leave to one employee and they find out you had granted it to someone else, they could raise a grievance.

To ensure consistency and avoid disputes, include a bereavement leave policy in your company handbook.