Bereavement leave

09 July 2019

Unfortunately, most people will experience the loss of somebody close to them at some point during their career. And, as such, they may request time off work.

Bereavement leave (also known as compassionate leave) is the period of time a worker is granted off work by their employer following the death of a family member or loved one.

This allows the worker time for grieving and managing bereavement matters, such as arranging or attending a funeral.

That means an employee may need to be out of the business, generally at short notice, for an indefinite period of time.

You must somehow cover their absence, and may be uncertain as to the employee’s likely return date. We explain how to do so in this guide. 

Parental bereavement leave

From 6th April 2020, employees have the right to take up to two weeks of leave following the loss of a child under the age or 18. Or after suffering a stillbirth after 24 weeks.

The leave, which needs to be taken within 56 weeks of the child’s death, can be taken in a single block of two weeks, or two separate blocks of one week.

Employees who have worked for a company for at least 26 weeks may also be entitled to statutory parental bereavement pay, which is set at the same rates as other forms of family leave.

Employer discretion

Currently, aside from parental bereavement leave, there's no legal obligation for UK employers to provide compassionate leave for other loss, paid or otherwise.

However, most employers do exercise discretion and some may choose to detail a formal bereavement leave policy as a contractual entitlement.

While there's no one-size-fits-all solution for any workforce, it's your responsibility to prepare for the eventuality that an employee may request time off work to grieve.

The impact on employees

Because employees have limited rights to time off following a close bereavement, this leaves a legal grey area around what they are entitled to do following the loss of a loved one.

By making employees aware of a clear policy around bereavement leave in their contract, employers can strengthen their relationship with staff and provide loyal support during difficult situations.

Dealing with the death of a loved one is hard enough for a person without them having to worry about whether they are actually able to take time off work, and whether they or not they will be paid during that time.

Aside from Parental Bereavement Leave, it is important to note that employees do have the right to take unpaid ‘time off for dependants’.

This could either be a spouse, partner, child, parent, or anybody who relies on the employee for care, help during an emergency or making funeral arrangements.

Bereavement leave: The Acas guidelines

If, as an employer, you are unsure about the best way to frame your policy around bereavement leave, we recommend that you read through the Acas guidelines on bereavement in the workplace before establishing a policy.

The policy must also be supported by ensuring managers and other designated employees are effectively trained to support staff who have recently experienced the loss of a loved one.

Being prepared to have difficult conversations is essential to ensuring that both the employee and the business can recover and resume work as soon as possible.


  • There's currently no legislation that requires UK employers to provide bereavement leave, unpaid or otherwise, for employees except in limited circumstances.
  • There is a legal right to take parental bereavement leave when an employee suffers the loss of a child under the age of 18, or a stillbirth after 24 weeks.
  • It is strongly advised that employer’s prepare a clear company policy in the event that an employee requests additional time off work to grieve.

Bereavement leave is directly related to the following aspects of employment:

Need our help?

If you need any assistance with bereavement leave, contact us for immediate support: 0800 028 2420

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