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Bereaved workers are seeking more support from their employers

For most of us, family bereavements are among the most painful and difficult experiences that we'll ever encounter. Yet, in many instances grieving employees have to rely on the support of their employers to cope.

Unfortunately, it seems that support is not always forthcoming. A recent survey from the charity the National Council of Palliative Care (NCPC) found that a third of respondents who had suffered the loss of a loved one in the past five years said that their employer had not treated them with compassion.

Employees are entitled to 'time off for dependants'. This is a reasonable amount of unpaid leave to deal with unforeseen emergencies, including arranging and attending the funeral of a dependant, and other tasks associated with such a death.

A 'dependant' could be a spouse, partner, child, parent or anyone living in the household. It could also be someone who relies on an employee for their care or for help during an emergency, such as an elderly neighbour.

Statutory entitlement doesn't extend to non-dependants, but many employers do have a policy for compassionate leave in such situations. Experts maintain that this can be a huge source of support to employees. It's also a help for managers who may be faced with sensitive conversations, and may be thankful for having a written policy to follow.

The charity's survey found that more than half of respondents would consider leaving an employer that failed to support them after the death of someone close. Almost nine out of ten respondents said all employers should have a compassionate employment policy including flexible working as well as paid bereavement leave.

When bereaved employees need more time off than is considered 'reasonable' by their employers, employees may have to use annual leave, or if they are eligible, they could give notice and take parental leave. Grieving employees who are unfit to work may have to take a period of sick leave.

The NCPC and other campaigners have been calling for statutory paid leave for bereaved employers.

Acas can help employers develop their terms and conditions of employment, including regarding leave and leave pay; go to Contracts and hours: how Acas can help.

Free, confidential advice about Time off for dependants is available on the Acas Helpline on 0300 123 1100.

Acas also runs practical training courses on Contracts and terms and conditions and Handling difficult conversations.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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We recommend that you explore further information and advice available on this website, particularly within our Advice A-Z guidance pages. If you have questions about workplace rights and rules visit Helpline Online.

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