19 Mar Bereavement Leave in the UK – A Guide
After the death of a loved one, daily life can feel overwhelming. It can be hard to imagine working or even making any arrangements for burial, and many people find it difficult to understand the options and help available to them. This guide is written to help you understand what rights you have to ask for bereavement leave and what time you might be able to take off work.
What is bereavement leave?
Bereavement Leave is time off from work or study granted to people who have experienced the recent death of a loved one. Where Bereavement Leave is available, it is usually offered to those grieving for immediate family, rather than those living outside the home.
Taking time off from work is not always possible. In the UK, there is no statutory right to paid leave, meaning that employers do not legally have to pay workers for time taken off to grieve and make arrangements for burial.
Your company will usually have a policy regarding bereavement leave, and it is up to your employer to decide what to offer you. You should talk to your Human Resources department as soon as possible to ask about the company policy.
When can I take time off?
In the UK, workers are entitled to a reasonable period of unpaid leave for the death of a dependent, which is a spouse, partner, child, parent or someone for whom you provided care.
This is called ‘Compassionate Leave’, and is granted to allow workers to take time off from work to deal with unforeseen matters and emergencies which involve dependents, including time to arrange or attend a funeral.
If the person you have lost was not a dependent, it is left to the employer’s discretion to decide whether or not to allow compassionate leave in your case.
How much time can I take off for bereavement?
There is no set amount of time to which individuals are legally entitled after the death of a loved one. The government guidance on this simply states that it should be ‘reasonable’. Bereavement leave typically lasts between 3 and 5 days. This is to allow reasonable time to arrange a funeral and communicate the events to family.
From 6 April 2020, a new law will mean that anyone classed as an employee will be entitled to 2 weeks’ leave if their child dies under the age of 18.
Will I be paid during bereavement leave?
Unfortunately there is no statutory right for you to be paid during time off for bereavement.
However, there are payments in place offered by the government, which might be able to help you support yourself and your family while you aren’t working. This is called Bereavement Support Payment, and in most situations you will be able to claim this.
Bereavement Support Payment
Bereavement support payment is a monthly payment granted to people after the death of their spouse or civil partner.
You will be entitled to this if your partner either:
- Paid National Insurance Contributions for at least 25 weeks
- Died because of an accident at work, or a disease caused by work
You have three months after the death in which to claim this payment, so you don’t need to worry about it right away.
For more information on Bereavement Support Payment from the UK government website, click here.
What do I need to tell my employer?
By law you have the right to keep your bereavement private from your work colleagues. It is up to you what you share when requesting compassionate leave, and if you choose to share details with your employer you can ask that they do not share the information with others. At minimum, it is best to explain that the absence is for personal reasons or bereavement.
What if I’m refused compassionate leave?
This is highly unlikely to happen, as most people understand that the loss of a loved one is an extremely difficult time and will manage their expectations of you accordingly. In the event that your employer refuses to allow compassionate leave, you should contact your workers union, the Citizens’ Advice Bureau or ACAS, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.
How can I manage grieving and arranging a funeral?
The loss of a loved one is a difficult time, especially when you feel you are responsible for making arrangements. It can feel overwhelming, particularly if the death was sudden, to try and arrange a funeral when you are still coming to terms with somebody not being in your life anymore. If you feel you are struggling to manage, ask for help from your friends and family, or speak to your GP about ways of coping with death.
Bereavement Leave is time taken off from work after the death of a loved one. You can take compassionate leave from work for the death of a dependent, that is a partner, spouse, child or someone for whom you provided care. If the person you’ve lost was not a dependent and you feel you want to take some time off, you can speak to your employer about their policy for bereavement leave. While there is no entitlement for paid bereavement leave or compassionate leave, you may be able to claim for bereavement support payment to help after the death of your civil partner or spouse.