Introduction to this document

Bereavement policy

Our bereavement policy goes further than the statutory right to reasonable unpaid time off for dependants. As well as providing for paid or unpaid bereavement leave following the death of an immediate or wider family member, our policy covers other leave that might be available, support for the employee on returning to work, religious requirements and how a line manager should deal with the matter.

Statutory rights

The only statutory bereavement right available to employees is the right to parental bereavement leave which applies on the death of a child under 18 (including a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy) - see our Parental Bereavement Leave Policy. There are no other statutory rights for employees to take either bereavement or compassionate leave. All they’re otherwise entitled to under s.57A Employment Rights Act 1996 is to take a “reasonable” amount of unpaid time off work to deal with certain unexpected or sudden emergencies involving dependants. This includes dealing with the consequences of the death of a dependant, for example, funeral arrangements and attendance. A dependant is narrowly defined here as the employee’s spouse, civil partner, child, parent or a person living in their household as part of the family. “Reasonable” isn’t defined and depends on the situation.

Wider scope

Our Bereavement Policy is wider than the statutory right to time off for dependants. It enables you to agree to grant up to a defined number of days’ bereavement leave to an employee following the death of an immediate family member and then a lesser number of days following the death of a wider family member. We’ve set out suggested definitions of immediate and wider family members but feel free to amend these. It’s up to you how many days you’re prepared to grant. We’ve additionally given you the option to grant bereavement leave on the death of someone else, such as a close friend of the employee. It’s then your decision whether bereavement leave is going to be paid or unpaid, so we’ve given you both choices. We’ve also given you the option to specify whether bereavement leave is in addition to, or includes, time off taken under the statutory right to time off for dependants.

Other leave and support

In addition to the statutory right to parental bereavement leave which might well apply in the circumstances, our policy refers to the employee being able to use their paid annual leave entitlement and possibly being eligible to apply for special unpaid leave to supplement any bereavement leave granted. Everyone reacts differently to bereavement, so do adopt a compassionate approach when considering requests for additional time off. If an employee is entitled to statutory parental bereavement leave and you grant them an equivalent right to bereavement leave under the terms of this policy, they cannot exercise the two rights separately but they can exercise whichever right is more favourable in any given respect. As for other support for the grieving employee, our policy provides for the possibility of a phased return to work on reduced hours and any other reasonable adjustments, such as altered duties and responsibilities. Any temporary changes along these lines need to be discussed and agreed with the employee’s line manager. We’ve also included a paragraph about grief counselling if you offer a counselling helpline service.

Religious requirements

Different religions have different bereavement requirements, e.g. a longer mourning period or a funeral at short notice. Our policy covers this and asks the employee to notify their line manager of any religious or cultural requirements. A failure to accommodate such requirements where reasonably practicable could result in a claim of indirect religious discrimination, unless your refusal can be objectively justified on business grounds.

Line manager’s responsibilities

Finally, we’ve set out a basic list of what line managers should do when notified of an employee’s bereavement. This should assist them to adopt an empathetic but practical approach.