What employees should do - Time off work for bereavement

What employees should do

If someone close to you dies, you might need to take time off work unexpectedly.

Depending on the circumstances, you might:

  • need time off immediately
  • decide to continue to work
  • take time off later on

If you need time off

It's best to let your employer know as soon as you can if you need time off work.

You should try to follow your organisation's usual process for telling them. If you feel unable to contact them, you could ask someone else to do it for you. For example, a family member or close friend.

If you've had a miscarriage

You do not have to tell your employer you've had a miscarriage. But it's a good idea to tell them, if you feel able to, so they can offer you any support that's available, including time off.

What you should tell your employer

It's a good idea to let your employer know:

  • how you'd like to be in contact while you're off, for example if phone or email is best, and how often you want to be in touch
  • if you want others at work to know, and if they can contact you
  • if you need any information or support from your manager or employer

It's up to you how much you tell them about the death, and whether you want others at work to know.

It might be difficult to know how long you'll need off work at first. Keeping in touch with your employer can help:

  • update your employer
  • plan your return to work when you're ready

Find out more about keeping in touch during absence from work


Alex works part time for a charity.

When Alex's mother died, Alex emailed their manager to let them know. Alex's manager replied to say they were sorry to hear Alex's news, and reassured Alex that their work would be covered. Alex's manager also said to call or email if they needed anything.

After taking 1 week off, Alex started to worry about how much time they'd taken off work. They called their manager.

Alex's manager assured Alex they should take the time off they need. They confirmed their organisation provides 2 weeks' paid bereavement leave, and also said if they need more time off they could discuss using holiday, sick leave or look at other options. Alex's manager also passed on the details of counselling and other support available to them through work.

Their conversations reassured Alex, and also helped Alex's manager understand what Alex needed.

Leave and pay

Check your contract or organisation's policy to see if your organisation offers leave or pay for bereavement.

Your organisation's bereavement policy, should say:

  • how much leave your organisation provides
  • if it's paid
  • if it depends on your relationship to the person who died

If you're not sure what you’re entitled to, check with your manager, employer or someone in HR.

If your employer does not offer leave for bereavement

By law, you might be entitled to time off if:

  • the person who died is your 'dependant'
  • your child was stillborn or died under the age of 18

If you're not well enough to work, you might get sick pay if you take sick leave.

You can talk to your employer about other options for taking time off, including holiday and unpaid leave.

Find out more about time off and pay for bereavement

Returning to work

It's a good idea to talk to your employer before you return to work to discuss:

  • when you think you'll be ready to return
  • anything you're concerned about when you return
  • if the death has changed anything that might affect your work, for example if you now have more caring responsibilities outside of work and want to discuss flexible working options

Find out about returning to work after absence

Help and support

If you need support at work, it can help to:

  • talk to your manager to see what support or adjustments might be possible
  • use your organisation's employee assistance programme (EAP), if there's one available

You can also get help and support from the following organisations:

If you're unhappy about how your employer has handled your bereavement

You can raise the problem with your employer. Find out how to raise a problem at work.

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