When you’ve suffered a loss, it can feel as though your whole world has come to a stop. You’ll need time to heal and grieve, to be with family and possibly even make arrangements for the funeral or probate.
Managing this unfamiliar and difficult situation alongside all your existing responsibilities can feel really overwhelming. Whilst work might fall down your list of priorities, it is worth knowing what time off you’re entitled to when it comes to compassionate leave following the loss of a loved one.
How many days do you get off work when a family member dies?
In the UK, there is no legislation or set guidelines that formally state a set number of days an employee can take off following the death of a loved one, unless the bereaved has lost a child (you can read more about this below). It’s largely down to the discretion of your employer. Bereavement leave policies might even be written into your employee contract, so it’s worth checking there first, or simply speaking to your employer. Whilst not a legal requirement, most employers will grant employees some level of compassionate leave. Typically, it will be around 2-5 days, but it will vary from company to company, and also on your relationship to the person who has passed.
What happens if I’m denied compassionate leave?
Most employers will be sympathetic following the loss of a loved one, however, if an employer denies you time off for compassionate leave, you do have the right to take time away from work for an emergency if it’s relating to someone who depends on you. A dependent is considered a child, partner, parent, grandchild, or person who relies on you for care in the event of an accident (i.e., an elderly neighbour). An emergency can be categorised as a number of things, but it does include the sudden loss of a family member or dependant.
If refused compassionate leave, you are also able to request time off in the form of unpaid leave, annual leave or an agreement with your employer to work back the time.
Is the guidance different if you have lost a child?
In the traumatic event of losing a child, working parents have a legal right to two weeks of ‘parental bereavement leave’ if their child passes away whilst under the age of 18. The leave can be taken at any time within 56 weeks of losing the child, so you might want to take it straight away or perhaps save it for difficult milestones such as a birthday or anniversary.
During this time, parents will be 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).
In a circumstance where 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 I get paid whilst on compassionate leave?
Again, this is largely down to the employer’s discretion. Your pay whilst on leave will largely come down to company policy and/or 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 deceased, for example, whether or not they were a dependant.
If an employer will not pay you for your time off, you might be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if your doctor has considered you ‘unfit for work’ due to the bereavement.
The gov.uk website states 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.”
It’s worth remembering that whilst being aware of your legal rights is useful, most of the time an employer is likely to be sympathetic and understanding of your situation. They will probably even have policies in place to allow for difficult times such as these.