The nation bereavement charity, Sue Ryder, has called on the Government to introduce two weeks statutory paid bereavement leave in the UK for employees who have lost a close relative or partner.

The charity, Sue Ryder, is asking the Government to introduce statutory paid bereavement leave that would last two weeks and be eligible for all UK employees.

This is after the charity researched the negative economic impact that occurs as a direct result of the emotion and grieving experienced by employees who have lost loved ones. It has been reported that this costs the UK economy £23 billion a year and HM Treasury £8 billion annually. This is as a result of reduced tax revenues in addition to increased use of NHS and social care resources.

Employee productivity is, unsurprisingly, also significantly affected during difficult times of grieving as workers grapple with the emotional, physical and financial implications of a bereavement.

Bereavements are a common experience in the UK with a quarter of the UK workforce -equivalent to 7.9 million people in employment – experiencing the loss of a loved one over the last year alone.

Currently, there is no legal requirements for employers to grant bereavement leave except for parents who have lost a child under the age of 18.

However, Sue Ryder asserts that allowing employees a two-week statutory paid bereavement leave will have significant long term effects even though it may cost employers in the short term. The charity asserts that employers could see reduced staff absence, higher levels of productivity amongst employees and less strain on health and social services after bereavement.

Conversely, research conducted by the charity has shown that persistent grief, following a bereavement, is more likely to affect low-income workers. This is due to a multitude of factors including a higher impact of financial losses which also cuts them off from accessing services and aid which would help them manage their grief.

Ultimately, the charity states that offering a two-week statutory paid bereavement leave for employees suffering the loss of a close relative or partner will alleviate some of the pressure employees face following a bereavement.

Heidi Travis, Chief Executive at SuRyder, said:

For many people, grief can be debilitating and additional stressors such as work, can feel overwhelming.

Currently many employers offer three to five days compassionate leave, but lower income workers in less secure jobs often don’t have access to any leave.

SuRyder is calling on the government to introduce two weeks statutory paid bereavement leave when a person is grieving the loss of any close relative or partner. This will allow people a crucial period of time to start processing their grief.

Not only would this improve how, as a society, we approach an issue that will affect almost all of us, but it would also address the financial impacts of unresolved grief, and its cost to the economy.

Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth and member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, added:

The coronavirus pandemic has cast a spotlight on the urgent need to better support people who are dealing with grief. Introducing a statutory right to two weeks paid bereavement leave would be a significant step forward.  This would mean that people who are in the immediate aftermath of a loved one’s death do not need to worry about work and are not put under any pressure to return to work.

I’ve heard too many stories from people who’ve felt obliged to return to work straight after the death of someone close to them, when they simply weren’t ready. Introducing this simple measure would be a concrete way that both the government and employers can better support people who are grieving.

*This research was commissioned by Sue Ryder and conducted by Censuswide in September 2020. 1,000 working age adults, 1,000 Scottish working age adults in addition to 500 bereaved people of working age over the last year.