Compassionate Leave

Compassionate Leave | December 2023

Bereavement or compassionate leave is crucial to the UK labour market. It enables an employee to take time off to attend to a family emergency or deal with losing a loved one. 

This kind of leave is a crucial component of the working relationship because it meets the needs of employees during trying times.

Topics that you will find covered on this page

Understanding Compassionate Leave

An employee may take a personal leave of absence, known as compassionate leave. In many organisations, this leave is a vital component of the employee handbook, assisting workers to balance work and personal life during trying times.

Compassionate leave is frequently connected to grief in the UK. When a loved one passes away, an employee may require some time to process their loss and attend to related issues, such as making funeral arrangements. 

The employee will have the time she needs to handle these issues during this leave.

Compassionate leave, though, is not just for grieving. It may also be granted in the event of a severe illness in the immediate family or other personal emergencies. The circumstances that qualify for compassionate leave depend on the person in question and the company’s policy.

Compassionate leave’s duration can change. It could sometimes last a few days and a few weeks in others. 

The relationship between the employee and the deceased, travel time, and the amount required to plan and attend a funeral are just a few factors that can affect how long the leave will last.

Legal Rights and Compassionate Leave

According to the Employment Rights Act, every employee in the UK has a constitutional right to “reasonable time off” to attend to a dependent’s emergency. 

This leave can be used to deal with the death of a dependent, but the amount of leave that may be taken is not specified by law because it depends on the specific circumstances.

While paid compassionate leave is not expressly allowed by law, some employers do include paid leave in their leave policies. The terms and conditions of paid time off are generally outlined in the employment contract or the employee handbook.

An example of a particular kind of compassionate leave is parental bereavement leave. 

Employed parents are entitled to two weeks of unpaid leave if they lose a child under 18 or experience a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act. 

No matter how long a parent has worked for their current employer, they are still entitled to this leave.

Compassionate leave also has implications for the Equality Act. Employers may be accused of discrimination if they do not treat time off for grief in the same manner as other types of leave. 

For instance, it might be deemed discriminatory if a company grants more time off for grieving over a spouse or civil partner than another family member.

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Compassionate Leave Policy Details

The specifics of a compassionate leave policy can differ from employer to employer. While some employers provide paid compassionate leave, others only offer unpaid time off. 

While some may offer brief vacations, others may give longer ones. The terms are frequently described in the employment contract or the employee handbook.

The criteria for compassionate leave should be specified in the policy in detail. It should be clear who qualifies as a close relative or dependent. 

Typically, this includes parents, children, civil partners, and spouses. Some employers, however, might also have in-laws, grandparents, and grandchildren.

Whether the leave is paid or unpaid should also be specified in the policy. The policy should determine how much the employee will be paid during their time off if it is spent. It could be at their regular pay rate, for instance, or a percentage of their typical income.

Additionally, the policy should outline how to apply for compassionate leave, what documentation to submit, and who to report to. Any requirements for returning to work after a leave of absence should also be stated.

Applying for Compassionate Leave

Application procedures for compassionate leave may differ between employers. The human resources department or manager should be notified as soon as possible. 

Details about the circumstance, such as the deceased person’s relationship to the employee and the funeral’s date, may need to be disclosed.

The employer may occasionally ask for documentation, such as a death certificate or a letter from the funeral home. Although it’s not required, it’s a good idea to be ready to answer this if asked.

According to the employer, the employee may also be required to submit a form or a letter requesting the leave. This should be done as soon as possible to give the employer enough time to make plans to cover the employee’s absence.

The employee should receive a written response if the leave is approved. The start and end dates and other pertinent information should be specified if the leave is paid or unpaid.

Compassionate Leave

Duration and Pay During Compassionate Leave

The length of the compassionate leave is determined by the employer’s policy and the specific situation. While some employers offer a set amount of time off for grieving, others take a more flexible approach. 

These issues are typically handled by the employee relations team, which considers things like the employee’s relationship with the deceased, travel, and the time required for funeral arrangements.

This also varies in terms of pay while on compassionate leave. Employers are not required by the Employment Rights Act to provide paid leave, but some do so out of goodwill. 

It could be full pay or a portion of the regular salary. The terms of paid leave are typically outlined in the employment contract or employee handbook.

The employee may need to use their annual or sick leave if the employer does not provide paid compassionate leave. Sometimes, they may decide to take unpaid leave. Understanding the employer’s policy is crucial to prevent any financial surprises.

"Bereavement or compassionate leave is crucial to the UK labour market."

Impact on Employment Rights

An employee’s employment rights should not be impacted by taking compassionate leave

Employers are prohibited by Citizens Advice and the Financial Conduct Authority from mistreating workers who take time off for bereavement. This covers any adjustments to the job role, schedule, pay, or location after returning.

Employees who feel mistreated can file a complaint with their employer. If the problem is not resolved, they can go to an employment tribunal. You should get legal counsel before doing this.

The Parental Bereavement Safeguards employed the Parents’ Rights (Leave and Pay) Act. Regardless of their length of service, parents who lose a child are entitled to 2 weeks of leave, during which time their jobs are safe.

Understanding Compassionate Leave

Returning to Work After Leave

After taking a compassionate leave, it can be difficult for an employee to return to work. Employers must be sympathetic and helpful during this time. Some workers require a gradual return to work, whereas others need more assistance from their coworkers.

The return to work after a compassionate leave should be governed by clear company policy. This should contain information on available help and who the worker can contact if they have problems.

After their compassionate leave has ended, employees who are not yet prepared to resume their jobs may take more time off. It might take the form of unpaid, parental, or annual leave. Additionally, some employers provide additional paid time off under exceptional circumstances.

Dealing with Disputes and Grievances

Compassionate leave can give rise to disagreements or complaints. This may result from disputes regarding the duration of the leave, pay while on leave, or treatment after returning to work.

Employees who have a complaint should first bring it up with their employer. A grievance resolution process established by the employer should be followed.

If the problem cannot be resolved internally, the employee may consult Citizens Advice or, if they are a trade union member, their union. They may occasionally decide to bring the case before an employment tribunal. You should get legal counsel before doing this.

Compassionate leave is essential for workers experiencing a personal loss or challenging circumstances. Employers and employees can navigate these trying times more successfully if they know the rights and obligations of this type of leave.

Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay

UK working parents are entitled to statutory parental bereavement pay if they lose a child. This particular kind of paid bereavement leave is available. If a parent loses a child under 18 or experiences a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, they are entitled to two weeks of paid leave. 

This statutory pay is intended to help parents through such a difficult financial period. It recognises the emotional toll that losing a child has on parents and the time they need to grieve. 

The employee’s average weekly earnings determine how much parental bereavement pay is legally required. Parents who meet the requirements can apply for this payment, which offers some monetary relief during a trying time.

Visitor Behaviour during Bereavement 

The behaviour of visitors during a bereavement can significantly impact whether an employee needs compassionate leave. This relates to how the bereaved person interacts with friends, family, and others. 

The bereaved employee may be able to return to work sooner if visitors behave in a supportive manner. On the other hand, unfavourable or intrusive visitor behaviour can increase stress and lengthen the compassionate leave period.

UK employers and human resources departments should consider the effects of visitor behaviour on employees. With this knowledge, they can effectively manage compassionate leave and offer support.

Unpaid Time and Dependents

In the UK, compassionate leave policies consider unpaid time off for dependents. Children, spouses, and others who depend on the employee for care are frequently considered dependents. 

An employee can use unpaid time off to help with a dependent emergency. This might apply in cases where the dependent gets sick, gets hurt, or dies.

Compassionate leave requires a significant amount of unpaid time off for dependents. It gives the worker flexibility during trying times and recognises their obligations outside of the workplace.

Bereavement Policy among UK Employers

Many UK employers make a bereavement policy a standard component of the employee handbook. The rights and obligations of the employer and the employee during a bereavement are outlined in this policy. 

The bereavement policy typically specifies the length of leave, whether it is paid or unpaid, and the procedure for making a leave request. Some policies offer extra assistance, like counselling services or flexible work schedules after a return.

It is crucial to have a thorough and understandable bereavement policy. It guarantees that workers know their rights and the resources available in trying times.

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Meet the author

Jane Parkinson

Jane Parkinson

Jane is one of our primary content writers and specialises in elder care. She has a degree in English language and literature from Manchester University and has been writing and reviewing products for a number of years.

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