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When you’ve suffered a loss you’ll need time to grieve, to be with family and possibly arrange the funeral. So if you usually work full or part time it’s worth knowing what time off you’re entitled to. To help make things clearer we’ll take you through the rules of bereavement leave in the UK.

When can you take bereavement leave?

In the UK, you have the right to time off work when a dependant dies. A dependant means:

  • Your partner, civil partner or spouse
  • Your parents
  • Your children
  • A person you live with
  • Anyone who would rely on you for help in an emergency such as an elderly neighbour
  • Anyone who would rely on you for care arrangements such as a grandchild

How long is bereavement leave?

In the UK there are no set guidelines about how much time you can take off after the death of a dependant. It’s actually up to your employer. They’ll usually put this info in a bereavement leave policy. This could be written into your employee contract or handbook so it’s worth checking there first. Or speak to your employer if you’re unsure.

Most employers will give you some level of compassionate leave for a bereavement. Typically, it’ll be around 2-5 days. But it’ll vary from company to company. And it’ll also depend on your relationship to the person who’s passed away.

Do employers have to give bereavement leave?

No, it’s not a legal requirement. But the Employment Rights Act 1999 does give you the right to time off work to deal with an emergency. This includes the death of a dependant.

Can an employer refuse bereavement leave?

In principle they can refuse to give you any bereavement leave. But all employers should be considerate of an individual’s personal circumstances and allow a reasonable amount of leave.

If your employer refuses to give you bereavement leave, you can request time off in the form of unpaid leave, annual leave or an agreement with your employer to work back the time. If this request is refused by your employer you may want to seek further advice. The independent advisors at ACAS have a helpline where you can talk through your options.

What bereavement leave do you get if you’ve lost a child?

If you lose a child you’re entitled to 2 weeks off. This is called parental bereavement leave. It applies if:

  • Your child is under the age of 18 when they pass away
  • Your child is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy

During this time parents are entitled to something called Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (SPBP) from the government. You can find out more about that here: Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (SPBP).

When a child is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy, the birth parent is entitled to up to 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave or pay. And the father or partner can receive up to 2 weeks paternity leave or pay.

Do you get paid for bereavement leave?

Is bereavement leave paid or unpaid? This is actually down to your employer. Your pay while on leave will come down to your company’s bereavement policy and what’s in your employee contract. Your employer might pay you for your time off or offer partial pay (depending on how long you are off for). But they don’t have to. It can also depend on the relationship between you and the person who’s passed away.

If an employer won’t pay you for your time off you might be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). This may apply to you if your doctor says you are ‘unfit for work’ due to the bereavement.

The website says that:

“Bereavement is not an incapacity, but the relationship between your employee and the deceased, e.g., as a parent or partner, could mean that your employee may well be ill. They may be suffering from shock due to the nature of death or depression/anxiety through loss. Take into account the employee’s circumstances and decide whether to accept this as the reason for incapacity. SSP is only payable if you decide that the reason is acceptable.”

Can I use bereavement leave for a funeral?

You’re entitled to time off to attend a funeral if the person who passed away was your dependant. If they weren’t a dependant then you may not be entitled to bereavement leave or compassionate leave. But your employer may offer you the time off. In this case they aren’t legally required to pay you for the time off. But check this with your employer. It depends on their bereavement leave policy and ultimately what they think is reasonable.

Do I need proof for bereavement leave?

This will depend on your company’s bereavement leave policy or what they think is reasonable. If your employer requires proof they should make it as easy as possible for you. They could ask for a funeral notice or simply ask for the details of the person who passed away. They’ll understand that it’s an uncomfortable situation. And it’s not your first priority. So if you do have to give them proof then they may ask you to do this on your return to work.

Your employer should be understanding of your situation. So don’t worry too much about organising bereavement leave. Your employer is likely to have policies in place to allow for difficult times like these. After all it’s in their best interests to make sure you’re coping.

If you need any more advice about organising bereavement leave ACAS has resources you can use. And if you’re still unsure speak to one of their experts via their helpline.