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Developing leave arrangements in a bereavement policy

Grief is deeply personal and affects people in different ways at different times.

New Acas guidance Managing Bereavement in the Workplace - A good practice guide suggests practical ways that employers can help their people cope with what might be the most difficult times in their lives.

Developing leave arrangements in a bereavement policy

It puts forward a sample bereavement policy that organisations may like to use as basis to develop their own formula, with the involvement of trade unions or staff representatives if appropriate.

Having a framework in place gives line managers clarity on what they can grant in terms of paid and compassionate unpaid leave, and what might be expected for return-to-work arrangements.

For example, you may want to set out different paid leave arrangements in the event of the death of an employee's immediate relative, an aunt or uncle, or someone important outside the immediate family.

Whatever your guidelines may be, it's helpful to acknowledge that some employees will need longer to grieve than others - and that there is space for discretion.

Be supportive, stay compassionate

The knowledge that an employer is supportive and compassionate can make a big difference to employees, and help them through with less stress and sickness.

But lack of planning makes it more likely that managers make mistakes when handling a workplace bereavement.

Disagreements are only likely to add to an employee's distress and make his or her return to work as an effective employee more tortuous.

In some cases, a failure to treat employees sensitively and not allow them reasonable time off work to grieve could result in a discrimination claim if others have been treated more favourably, or because of a protected characteristic.

Annual leave

As well as paid and unpaid leave, the Acas sample policy looks at annual leave and its relationship to bereavement leave, a consideration that could well be missed by unprepared employers.

A policy could make it a principle that grieving employees can take annual leave at short notice to supplement their bereavement leave.

And if employees suffer a bereavement while on annual leave, your policy could make it clear that they can convert their annual leave into bereavement leave and take their annual leave at a future date.

Acas publications and services

Acas can help you manage Bereavement in the workplace, with its publication Managing bereavement in the workplace – a good practice guide.

Acas experts can visit your organisation, and work with you to develop an appropriate bereavement policy. Contact the Acas customer services team on 0300 123 1150 for more information.

Practical training on Having difficult conversations, and how to deal with Stress in the workplace, would also be useful in bereavement situations.

For free, impartial advice on any employment relations issue, visit Helpline Online.

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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