Category Archives: Bereavement Leave

Bereavement – What are your rights?

Losing a loved one or relative can be an extremely traumatic time in anyone’s life and time off work to grieve and make arrangements should not be time which adds extra strain or pressure.

Those in mourning need support and advice, not added stress.

As there is currently no legal requirement for employers to give paid bereavement leave it can be extremely difficult for those in mourning to take the time they need.

The government suggests ‘reasonable’ time off to deal with emergencies involving a dependant but as there are no real guidelines or laws it is at the employer’s discretion.

People will often feel guilty for taking time off or feel pressured to return to work after bereavement as the unclear guidelines don’t take into account circumstances and the fact different people will react differently during those difficult times.

Currently in England and Wales, bereavement caused by negligence of breach of duty is recognised by the law and has a fixed payment of damaged of £12,980. However, the only people who qualify for this payment are a spouse, civil partner or the parents of a minor.

This does not take into account serious relationships as a cohabitee would not qualify for the damages but may be in a very similar situation to a person who has lost a spouse.

This example shows that the current laws do not reflect modern life in Britain.

Having a ‘fixed payment’ of damages and not taking into account circumstances can be difficult to explain to those in extreme cases. For example if a parent lost 2 children aged 17 and 19 they would qualify for damages for the 17 year old but not the 19 year old. The parents of a ‘minor’ may qualify but as the cut off is 18 years the parents of young adults would not.

Scotland has a very different system in which each case is decided on its own merits. A study showed that 80% of people believed this was a much fairer system. This caused APIL to call for a review of the law which suggests the majority agree with the ‘plea for fairness for the bereaved’.

Many will welcome the review and agree that the current system does not represent modern Britain.