Paid bereavement leave near universal, survey finds

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Almost all employers offer their staff paid time off during a time of bereavement, according to a survey from XpertHR.

The majority of the 634 organisations surveyed operate within a formal policy or guidelines when granting leave. The remainder prefer to work on a case-by-case basis, believing that each employee reacts differently in a bereavement situation.

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.

 

Few employers offer more than 10 days’ paid bereavement leave.

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 finds 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.

When granting bereavement leave, many employers recognise that flexibility may be required. The need to travel to attend the funeral, having responsibility for making arrangements, and the readiness of the employee to return to work will all be considered in granting additional leave, although this would not necessarily be paid leave.

Mindful of the sensitivity of the subject, few employers ask for proof of a bereavement before granting leave. The majority also take steps to ensure cases are handled sympathetically, 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.

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.”

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