Q&As

Does an employer have to allow paid or other leave when an employee suffers a family bereavement?

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Published on LexisPSL on 11/11/2014

The following Employment Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Does an employer have to allow paid or other leave when an employee suffers a family bereavement?
  • Right to unpaid time off for dependants
  • Discrimination protection
  • Maternity leave
  • Health and safety
  • Best practice guidance
  • Put in place a bereavement or compassionate leave policy

Does an employer have to allow paid or other leave when an employee suffers a family bereavement?

There is no specific statutory right to paid or unpaid time off for compassionate leave, except in the limited circumstances set out in the statutory right to time off for dependants (sometimes known as 'emergency leave').

However other statutory provisions may dictate the manner in which an employer responds in circumstances where an employee suffers a bereavement and these are discussed below.

The first step is to check whether the employer already has in place a bereavement policy or another policy (such as a compassionate leave policy, an absence from work policy, or leave policy) which covers the situation. The employer should obviously follows the terms of, and guidance in, any such policy.

Right to unpaid time off for dependants

Although not amounting to as much as a right to bereavement or compassionate leave, there is a statutory right for employees (not workers) to reasonable unpaid time off to care for 'dependants' in an emergency. See Time off for dependants.

It applies only to dependants as defined—see our Practice Note Time off for dependants—Who is a 'dependant'?. For the purposes of the circumstances in this Q&A, the statutory right covers:

  1. the employee's spouse or civil partner

  2. the employee's child

  3. the employee's parent

  4. a person who lives in the same household as the employee

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