A majority of employers in the UK offer their staff paid time off after a bereavement

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While almost all employers now offer their staff paid bereavement leave, the method by which they choose to grant leave varies. The majority of organisations surveyed by XpertHR operate within formal policies or guidelines when granting leave and the remainder prefer to work on a case by case basis as a bereavement will affect each employee differently.

Currently, the most common approach is to determine the amount of paid leave available dependent on the employee’s relationship with the deceased. The most common arrangements are:

five days’ paid leave for the closest relationships, such as spouse, civil partner, partner, sibling and children;

three days’ paid leave for less close relationships, such as grandparents, grandchildren and step parents; and

one day’s paid leave for in-laws, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Many employers do recognise that flexibility is important when granting bereavement leave. The arrangements for funeral processions, travel to attend the funeral and readiness to return to work will all need to be considered in granting additional leave, although this would not necessarily be paid leave.

Major changes are on the horizon as the Government is planning to introduce the right to two weeks’ paid leave for employed parents who lose a child under the age of 18 from 2020. XpertHR’s research found that 87% of employers offer less than 10 days paid leave to employees who lose a child, meaning that many will need to increase their entitlements to comply with the proposed right.

XpertHR managing editor for pay and HR practice, Sheila Attwood said: “Knowing that they have access to paid time off will ease the burden on employees during a difficult time. Many organisations also allow some flexibility to their policy, operating with sympathy and trust to help to prevent any further stress for affected employees.”

When it comes to verifying a bereavement, few employers are willing to ask for proof before granting leave. The majority choose to take steps to ensure cases are handled sympathetically and individually, including by providing guidance to line managers on being sensitive if the bereavement affects an employee’s attendance or performance, maintaining a dialogue with the affected employee while they are on leave, and making employees aware of any counselling or employee assistance programme available to them.