Understanding bereavement leave

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The government decided against including a statutory right to bereavement leave in the Children and Families Act 2014 on the grounds that they felt it was ‘not feasible’ to legislate for such leave and that it preferred a more flexible approach of non-statutory guidance. Bereavement is a highly emotional experience to which individual’s respond differently, and at varying speeds, depending on shock, distress and general emotional well-being prior to the bereavement. As such, it is understandable why the government chose to go down the ‘guidance’ route, as opposed to a more legal definition, when it comes to bereavement leave.

ACAS was tasked to develop a good practice guide for the management of bereavement leave in the workplace, which they recently issued: https://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4976

Although what ACAS have issued is only a good practice guide, my experience is that tribunals sometimes rely on ACAS guides when dealing with cases.

Here is my overview of ACAS’s Managing bereavement in the workplace guide:

  • The guide establishes the legal position in relation to bereavement, including an employee’s entitlement to take a ‘reasonable’ period of unpaid leave following a bereavement.
  • The guide provides practical guidance on managing bereavement in the workplace, including how to deal with the immediate aftermath on being notified of a bereavement, communications with the affected employee and how to share the information with the wider workforce in a sensitive manner.
  • The guide recommends that organisations produce a clear written policy covering managing employee bereavement, such as providing an entitlement to a defined period of either paid or unpaid leave, making available support resource, and guidance on returning to work following bereavement.

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