Extend paid bereavement leave right beyond parents, urges CIPD

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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.”

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2 Responses to Extend paid bereavement leave right beyond parents, urges CIPD

  1. Avatar
    EMERSON MAGUIRE 23 Jul 2020 at 11:53 am #

    CIPD should get out of the public sector and look at issues facing real businesses. Stop calling for ever more costs to be piled onto business with ever more rights for employees.

    Where a business can afford a more generous policy, or where they see that the more generous approach generates business benefits then they can give it. Workers can make choices about the way the business treats them and vote with their feet.

    Talking about death and bereavement is different for saying everyone should have paid bereavement leave for every death they experience.

  2. Avatar
    Diane Reece 24 Jul 2020 at 4:33 pm #

    there will never be a one size fits all – everyone’s relationship and personal circumstances differ – losing an elderly parent, who has been ill for some time is something most people expect to face – losing a relatively young parent without warning is a totally different case – and a right to time off for a estranged parent not seen for 20 years but not for a Step “parent” who brought you up ? with so many blended familys this is so open to misinterpretation (and dare I say it, abuse by some Employees !!!)
    From personal experience – I lost a parent – and went to work that afternoon as I had payroll deadlines – 2 months earlier my sister in law lost a parent in almost identical circumstances (and both our and their ages were the same) yet she stayed off of work for over 10 weeks – it is a pointless expense and more red tape for the sake of it – you NEVER get over losing a child – and to even suggest two weeks is reasonable is totally insensitive !

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