It pays to keep employees happy by being flexible wherever possible when it comes to accommodating the need for time off in difficult circumstances.

However new legislation is currently making its way through Parliament which looks set to give parents a statutory right to paid time off following the death of a child under 18. Although this bill goes further than most other countries in providing employee rights, the Government is keen to encourage employers to support their staff through the ordeal of losing a child.

Although many employers will have a policy on compassionate leave for staff, in the absence of this a grieving parent currently has very few rights.

Existing Right to time off

Annual Leave – A grieving parent can take paid annual holiday, although it may not be appropriate for them to use up their holiday entitlement in this way.

Time off for dependents – There is a right to take time off to deal with family emergencies. This right applies from day one of employment and is a right to “reasonable” time off.  In the case of a bereavement this would be a right to take time off to deal with the immediate logistical matters following a bereavement rather than a right to compassionate leave.  Any time taken off is unpaid.

For further information on situations in which an employee has a legal right to take time off work see our guide

Bereavement Leave Proposal

The Government envisages:

  • A right for a parent to take 2 weeks leave in the event of the death of a child aged under 18. This right will apply from day one of employment
  • Leave must be taken in the 8 weeks following the child’s death.
  • Leave to be paid at the same rate as paternity leave if the employee has 26 weeks continuous service at the date of the death. The current rate is £140.98 per week or 90% of average weekly earnings whichever is lower.

This new right is due to be introduced from 2020. Until then there is no legal right to compassionate leave, although the Government is giving a strong message that it encourages employers to allow employees time off to grieve.

ACAS Guide

A bereavement in the workplace can be tricky to manage. ACAS has produced a good practice guide to managing bereavement in the workplace

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.