Time off to Attend Funerals

George Heron

George Heron

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Phone 01952 566918

1 March 2017

Recent research from MetLifeUK indicates that, in the past two years, nearly one in 5 employees have had to use annual leave or take unpaid time off in order to attend the funeral of a family member or friend. What does the law say about bereavement leave? Is there an automatic right to have this time off and, if so, can it be unpaid?

It may surprise you to hear that there is no right to any paid time off to attend a funeral. There is a statutory right to take reasonable time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant, and this may include attending a funeral, but the right is limited to unpaid time off. A dependant, for the purpose of this provision, is a spouse, partner, child or parent, someone who lives with the employee as part of their family or someone who reasonably relies on the employee for assistance. In cases that do not involve a dependant, there is actually no statutory right to take time off at all.

Nevertheless, most employers do allow paid or unpaid time off and it is important that the application of an employer’s policy in this regard is consistent and fair. To implement this, and to ensure that everybody knows where they stand, employers can put in place a Compassionate Leave Policy. For instance, the employer may wish to allow a set number of paid days off for certain, defined family members with other leave available at the discretion of the Company.

Taking a sympathetic, compassionate approach will pay dividends in terms of staff moral and retention as the research by MetLife found that nearly a third of employees would consider resigning if their employer was unsympathetic to them at such a time. Putting in place a policy which goes further than statute will therefore help to secure loyalty and commitment.  Such times are naturally distressing for the employee and a consistent approach which allows for some flexibility, given that close relationships are not always blood ties, is advisable.

At Alpha, we have a vast experience in providing bespoke, practical advice on HR and employment law issues including drafting staff handbooks which incorporate Compassionate Leave Policies. We are proud of our commercial outlook and do not sit on the fence. If you would like to have Alpha on your side, please feel free to contact us.

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