Bereavement Leave – What Employers Need to Know

Supporting employees who have suffered a bereavement can be a challenging issue for employers of all sizes, but in particular, small and medium employers.

It is important for employers to realise that different people cope with bereavement in different ways and a bereavement can affect people differently for a variety of reasons.

Employers must balance their duty of care towards their employees with the economic, technical and organisational needs of the business.

Employees have no statutory entitlement to time off work to grieve the loss of a loved one – whether that leave is paid or unpaid.

However, it is considered reasonable and advisable best practice for an employer to offer an employee limited paid time-off work to grieve, make funeral arrangements and attend a funeral.

The duration of that paid time-off work often depends on the relationship between the employee and the deceased. In certain circumstances, additional unpaid time-off work may also be offered to an employee.

It is advisable for employers to have a clause, paragraph or policy in their Employee Handbook in respect of bereavement leave – to set out parameters to be referred to by both employer and employee.

This policy ought to state that the company understands the loss of a loved one must be managed in a sensitive and caring manner. Suggested parameters to be established strictly as a guide in the Policy for paid time-off work for bereaved employees are:

  • Spouse/ Partner/ Child – 1 week’s paid leave;
  • Parent/ Brother/ Sister – 3 day’s paid leave; and
  • Mother-In-Law/ Father-In-Law/ Brother-In-Law/ Sister-In-Law/ Grandparents/ Grandchild/ Uncle/ Aunt – 1 day’s paid leave.

The Policy should state that management have a discretion to offer additional days – whether paid or unpaid – and that this discretion will be applied on a case-by-case basis.

It may also be appropriate to accept any requests for annual leave or to offer same, to assist the employee to grieve.

These categories are not set down formally – and each employer is free to formulate their own specific parameters. However, it is advisable that parameters of some form are established.

Where an employee requests bereavement leave following a death not covered in the above categories, such a request should be addressed using management discretion and on a case-by-case basis.

Typically, paid bereavement leave ought not to be offered for the death of pets. However, this would be a matter for the discretion of management.

If you have any queries regarding bereavement leave requests please contact the advice line on 01 886 0350

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