Paid bereavement leave should be extended to all especially during COVID-19

Due to the current COVID-19 situation, employees could be working whilst dealing with the death of a parent, partner or sibling which has led to the CIPD calling for the right for paid bereavement leave of two weeks to be extended to all.

In an open letter to Alok Sharma, business secretary, the CIPD is asking for paid bereavement leave for all staff members who have had a close family member die. The letter is asking for an extension to Jack’s Law, which came in to effect on 06/04/20 and was announced by Andrea Leadsom, business secretary at the time. The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulation or Jack’s Law is in memory of Jack Herd, a 23-month-old who died in a pond. It means parents can now take two weeks leave in one go or two separate blocks of one week taken at different times across the first year after the child’s death.

Currently, the majority of employers adhere to Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) guidelines which allows an employee ‘reasonable’ time off or two days following a death. However, besides from Jack’s Law, there is no legal requirement for employers to pay workers for time taken off due to bereavement.

Claire McCartney, senior resourcing and inclusion adviser at the CIPD said:

Losing a family member, partner or friend can have a devastating impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing and employees experiencing bereavement need to be treated with compassion and support in the workplace.

Many people will not have been able to say a proper goodbye to loved ones due to coronavirus, which will have been incredibly difficult. It is vital for organisations to properly support those who are experiencing grief and loss by developing policies that offer long-term support and to ensure that line managers are equipped to support bereaved employees. Grief is neither linear nor predictable so employers must also recognise individual circumstances.

Julia Sinclair-Brown, director, and coach at Evolvida, a company that offers coaching believes Jack’s Law is a step in the right direction but believes this law should be extended to all family members.

Ms Sinclair-Brown said:

I can say from personal and professional experience that grief is unique for everyone and Jack’s Law seemed to put a measurement on the fact that child loss was the worst loss to be faced – in some ways saying that other close family relationships are less painful.

Still, some believe that a blanket rule may not be the best way to handle bereaving employees, as a ‘one size fits all’ approach in this situation will not necessarily work for every business.

Joanne Frew, partner and head of employment at DWF, a multinational law firm said:

A balance needs to be sought between allowing someone the time to come to terms with their loss and enabling employers to manage the time off, what may be suitable in one circumstance would not necessarily work in another.