Bereavement leave

16 April 2019

The death of a close family member is an upsetting experience. While your employees will use different coping mechanisms to deal with bereavement, it’s important to provide them with some time off to grieve, make funeral arrangements, and attend a funeral.

In this guide, we cover the essential details to consider when your business has to deal with this situation.  

What is bereavement leave?

From an Irish perspective, bereavement leave is a discretionary employment policy that allows employees a limited amount of paid-time off work to grieve the loss of a loved one.

It also allows them to attend to their family responsibilities during a difficult period in their personal lives.   

What is the law on bereavement leave?

It may come as some surprise to learn there’s no statutory bereavement leave law in Ireland.

In the absence of a legal duty to provide bereavement leave, Ireland’s business owners must balance their duty of care towards their employees with the operational requirements of the organisation when deciding what to provide in terms of bereavement leave entitlement.

Ireland’s lawmakers have examined the issue of introducing a legal minimum entitlement to bereavement leave but to date no such law has ever been agreed.

Typical bereavement leave policies

The best way to deal with bereavement leave is to set out your company’s bereavement entitlements in a policy that's clearly communicated to all employees.

This policy should confirm your company understands losing a loved one is a difficult time for employees and all deaths will be managed in a sensitive and caring manner.

The length of any paid time-off work is in general proportional to the proximity of the relationship between the employee and the deceased.

Some examples of the duration of paid time-off work for bereaved employees might be:

  • Spouse/ Partner/ Child—1 week’s paid leave.
  • Parent/ Brother/ Sister—3 day’s paid leave.
  • Mother-In-Law/ Father-In-Law/ Brother-In-Law/ Sister-In-Law/ Grandparents/ Grandchild/ Uncle/ Aunt—1 day’s paid leave.

As each employee will have different circumstances, your policy should confirm that management will use their discretion to offer more paid or unpaid time off work on a case-by-case basis.

If an employee requests bereavement leave following the death of a person that doesn’t fall into any of the above categories, management should likewise use their discretion to decide what is appropriate in the circumstances.

Benefits of a bereavement leave policy

The main reason why bereavement leave is important is your response to a difficult employee situation reflects your company’s values.  

If your organisation and all your employees help a colleague to get through the grieving process, your whole workforce will appreciate the steps you take to support your staff during a tough time.

Handling bereavements in a sensitive and supportive manner should therefore lead to high levels of morale and reduce the likelihood of HR problems like sick leave and high staff turnover affecting your business.

Is an employee requesting bereavement leave? We'll guide you through your obligations

Our HR and employment law experts are happy to provide you and your business with reliable and up-to-date advice on bereavement leave in Ireland, and what your employees are entitled to. 

Speak to us today on 1800 719 216.

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