The majority of employers provide paid bereavement leave for employees who lose a loved one, family member or dependant, despite there being no current statutory obligation to do so, new research finds.
Managing the needs of a bereaved employee is one of the most sensitive issues that HR professionals can face. The survey finds that employers have extensive arrangements in place to support bereaved employees through difficult times.
Nearly all (97.9%) of the 634 organisations taking part in the XpertHR survey grant some or all bereavement leave on a paid basis. Two-thirds of this group use a combination of paid and unpaid bereavement leave, while one-third pay employees for all bereavement leave taken.
Three-fifths (61.2%) of employers vary the amount of paid bereavement leave, most commonly by taking into account the closeness of the bereaved employee’s relationship to the deceased. One in five (20.6%) varies the amount of leave by other factors, such as travel requirements to attend the funeral or make any necessary arrangements, and the mental and physical health of the bereaved employee in light of the bereavement event.
The amount of paid bereavement leave provided is often limited to five days in respect of the closest relationship categories (including spouses/civil partners, partners, parents, siblings and children). Lower entitlements – usually one to three days’ paid bereavement leave – are provided for what might be considered less close relationships.
The two-thirds of employers that offer some or all bereavement leave on an unpaid basis – in line with the basic provision specified by the Employment Rights Act 1996 – tend to decide the amount that they will grant on a case-by-case basis.
Nearly nine in 10 (86.1%) employers take action to help bereaved employees. The most common actions are advising line managers to use discretion and sensitivity, maintaining regular dialogue with bereaved employees, and making bereaved employees aware of any available counselling or employee assistance programmes.
Employers reported that bereavement leave requests would be handled with sympathy and trust. One private-sector employer says: “Each situation is handled individually to reflect the individual’s situation and their needs. Overall, we are very sympathetic to and supportive of our employees and offer them the time they say they need after the death of a loved one.”
New right to paid parental bereavement leave
Nearly all employers will need to review their bereavement leave arrangements in light of Government plans to introduce the right to two weeks’ paid leave for employed parents who lose a child under the age of 18 from 2020.
Only a minority of employers currently match or go beyond the proposed statutory minimum entitlement to paid parental bereavement leave. Of the 525 respondents specifying the number of days’ paid bereavement leave that they offer to parents who lose a child, just 13% offer 10 or more days. This means that nearly nine-tenths (87%) of employers will need to take action to comply with the proposed right.