How long are you entitled to take off work when a close family member dies?
You may be surprised to learn that there are no official rules that state how long you are entitled to take off work when a close family member dies.
Whilst the government does say that workers are entitled to a “reasonable” amount of time off unpaid, it does not specifically outline what amount of time falls under the heading of reasonable.
Allocated time off for a bereavement varies from employer to employer and whilst most are sympathetic and compassionate, there is no guarantee. However, some mental health experts, charities and politicians have called for a “rethink” of how bereavement should be handled in the workplace.
Some people have said how they felt pressured to return to work a few weeks, or even a few days, after a loved one has died. If a person is not ready to return, it can have a huge impact on their grieving process and ultimately add more stress to an already stressful situation.
The main issue from an employer’s standpoint is that if official, paid bereavement leave was introduced it could cost a lot of money, particularly for small businesses. However, it has been argued that not giving people the appropriate time off to grieve could cost companies more money in the long run.
Because there are no regulations in place, having time off work due to a death in the family is often labelled under something like “stress” or “personal time”. This means it’s difficult to pinpoint how many people in the UK take time off work for bereavement. However, mental health professionals who have first-hand experience interacting with those getting over the loss of a loved one, highlight it as a big concern.
Whilst everyone grieves differently, it has been argued that having a set amount of paid leave written in law would at least ease the burden that some employees, and their employers, face at this difficult time.
And let’s not forget that people don’t only need time off to grieve. A lot of the time they have the responsibility of dealing with the legalities of losing a loved one, such as dealing with the Will and probate. This can be stressful in itself without the added emotional pressure attached to losing a loved one. People need to feel like they have the necessary time and space to take care of everything.
While we wait for an official bereavement law to be put in place, employees are supported by some other employment laws. For example, you are legally entitled to take time off work to handle an emergency that involves a close family member. Whilst there is nothing that says you have to be paid, it is always worth checking your contract / speaking to your employer.