Leave Management

Bereavement and Compassionate Leave: Rules in the UK

Understand employee rights to time off after the death or illness of a loved one...
Sean QuinnPosted on Monday, July 3rd 2023

The death or ill health of a loved one can be extremely stressful, and will almost certainly affect an employee's ability to work. Navigating such a situation can be tricky for both employer and employee, so it's helpful to know the rules and expectations around taking time off work to deal with the death of a dependant.

Rights to bereavement leave

According to UK legislation, employees are entitled to a 'reasonable amount' of time off after the death of a dependant.

A dependant does not have to be someone directly related to you, although this may be the case. They may be a partner, spouse, child, or could be someone who depends on you for care, for example an elderly neighbour.

The law does not let out a strict time limit, so what classifies as a 'reasonable amount' of time off must be agreed between employer and employee.

Employees are also entitled to time off to attend the funeral of a dependant.

What is compassionate leave?

'Compassionate leave' tends to cover time off for emergency situations relating to a dependant or someone close to the employee, which isn't already covered by bereavement leave policies.

There are many different circumstances which may be classed as an 'emergency' in this context. For example, employees in the UK are entitled to time off to deal with the illness, injury or assault of a dependant. Illnesses do not have to be life threatening, and a flare up of an existing condition is also covered. Parents may take time off for emergencies relating to their children, for example if their child is suspended from school unexpectedly or is injured during school hours.

Should compassionate leave be paid?

Although employees have a legal right to time off following the death of a dependant, there is no right to be paid for this time off. Many employers do however choose to pay employees during bereavement and compassionate leave, but this should always be detailed in their company policy, so that it can be applied fairly across the board.

There may be a limit to how many days of paid leave employers will provide following a bereavement; in some cases, employees may need to take annual leave instead if they need more time away from work.

The only time bereavement leave must be paid by law is following the death of a child under 18 or a stillbirth after 24 weeks. Under Jack's Law, parents are entitled to 2 weeks of paid leave under these circumstances.

Understand your statutory rights to time off from work as an employee in the UK and Ireland

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