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Supporting Bereaved Employees

Some employers may find themselves managing an employee who has been recently bereaved. This will be a difficult and upsetting time for any employee and it can be hard for employers to know how to support them.

With this in mind, we have put together some points employers may wish to consider:

  • Bereavement leave

It’s only natural that a bereaved employee may need or want to take some time off work so it’s important to know what they are entitled to in terms of time off and pay. Statutory rights in this area may be more limited than employers would expect considering bereavement is an area which is likely to affect all employees at some point in their working lives.

There is no statutory right to time off to grieve, apart from in the case of employed parents who lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. They have a statutory right to two weeks parental bereavement leave and in some cases a right to statutory parental bereavement leave pay. Further information about this right, which was introduced in April this year, can be found here .

Employees do have a statutory right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work when it is necessary to take action required in consequence of the death of a dependant such as arranging and attending a funeral. For this right, a dependant is defined as a parent, spouse, civil partner, child or someone who lives in the same household who is not a tenant or lodger.

Many employers offer better rights when it comes to time off for bereavement, particularly in relation to pay so it’s important for employers to check their contracts of employment to ascertain what their employees are contractually entitled to.

There may be occasions where an employee asks for time off following a bereavement which falls outside their statutory or contractual entitlements, for example time off to attend the funeral of a friend or a longer period of time off. If this occurs in your organisation you should contact Kingfisher Professional Services for advice on the facts of your case.

  • Workplace culture

It can be beneficial for employees to know that they can talk to their manager about matters that may be affecting them, such as bereavement, if they need to. If employees feel they will be supported and matters dealt with sensitively they are more likely to reach out for help when they need it. A supportive workplace culture can not only help employees in difficult times but can also help employers with matters such as staff retention.

  • Impact on employee in the workplace

Every employee will deal with a bereavement differently, for some it may impact them in the workplace. If an employer notices a change in an employee’s performance or behaviour which is of concern often the first step will be to have a conversation with the employee as this will help to identify what action or support, if any, is needed.

There may be occasions where employees experience mental health difficulties such as anxiety or depression which can be as a consequence of bereavement. Where such employees would be considered disabled under the Equality Act, employers should bear in mind that there is a duty to make reasonable adjustments.

If you would like employment law advice regarding a bereaved employee in your workplace or there is any other employment law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.