The right to bereavement leave and pay should be extended to all employees experiencing a close family bereavement, not just parents, the CIPD has urged the business secretary.
In an open letter to Alok Sharma, it said every employee who experiences the loss of a parent, child, partner – whether married or not – or sibling should be entitled to two weeks’ paid leave from work.
Its call followed the introduction of Jack’s Law in April, which brought in the legal right to paid bereavement leave for parents who lose a child under the age of 18. Aside from this law, employers are not required to pay staff who have taken leave following the death of a close family member.
Furthermore, although employees are entitled to ‘reasonable’ time off following a bereavement or emergencies involving dependants, employment law does not specify how much time can be taken.
A YouGov survey of 1,080 workers commissioned by the CIPD found that 54% of employees were aware of their employer having a policy or support in place for employees experiencing bereavement.
“Losing a family member, partner or friend can have a devastating impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing and employees experiencing bereavement need to be treated with compassion and support in the workplace,” said Claire McCartney, the CIPD’s senior resourcing and inclusion adviser.
“Many people will not have been able to say a proper goodbye to loved ones due to coronavirus, which will have been incredibly difficult. It is vital for organisations to properly support those who are experiencing grief and loss by developing policies that offer long-term support and to ensure that line managers are equipped to support bereaved employees. Grief is neither linear nor predictable so employers must also recognise individual circumstances.”
McCartney said the introduction of Jack’s Law was an important step forward in recognising the need for parental bereavement leave and pay and that the rights it offers employees should be extended to all staff experiencing a bereavement.
The CIPD’s letter to Sharma coincides with the launch of new employer guidance around bereavement support, which sets out how HR professionals should develop their bereavement policy, educate and support line managers, develop flexible responses to bereavement and signpost bereaved employees towards support services and charities.
Its guidance for line managers, also published today, encourages managers to acknowledge the bereavement and stay in touch with the affected employee, understand their organisation’s bereavement policy, build flexible responses and discuss what is to be communicated to their colleagues.
Meanwhile, Business in the Community has launched a new toolkit outlining how businesses can best support their employees with bereavement. The toolkit is supported by KPMG UK and National Grid.
BITC wellbeing director Louise Aston said: “With the UK’s Covid-19 death toll the worst in Europe, most of us will be touched by death, bereavement and grief during the pandemic.
“Employers must stop shying away from discussing the deeply uncomfortable topic of death. There is an urgent need for all employers to take a pragmatic approach to considering the impact that thousands of deaths have, and continue to have, on employees.
“Now is the time for business communities to step up and collectively share the responsibility of talking openly about death, listening and supporting one another.”