Compassionate leave and bereavement leave

They don't always mean the same thing here in the UK...

It's a grim reality that some of your staff will lose their loved ones while working for you. In these instances, people need time off to grieve, arrange and attend a funeral, and more.

When your employee takes time off for all of these things, we call it bereavement leave or compassionate leave. How many days' bereavement leave you decide to offer is up to you.

This guide is here to advise you on how you can offer this sort of leave, and to answer questions such as, "how long is compassionate leave?" and, "is compassionate leave paid?"

Compassionate leave entitlement

As it stands, you don't actually have any legal obligation to offer your staff bereavement leave in the UK.

This is because the UK doesn't have statutory bereavement leave or anything of a similar fashion.

But, there is also no law that stops you from offering compassionate leave—paid or unpaid—to your staff. You can write compassionate leave entitlement into your contracts of employment.

Compassionate leave pay

If you choose to introduce a compassionate leave policy, you need to establish whether you will pay employees while they're off.

For example, your policy might include five days' paid compassionate leave per year.

Clarify that these days are for unfortunate circumstances and that you won't operate a sellback scheme for these days.

If someone has to use their five days but needs more time off, it would be wise to allow more compassionate leave. Whether you offer more paid leave is up to you—but we advise that you be consistent with each employee to avoid discrimination.

We recommend you visit Acas for more help with your compassionate leave policy.

Are there any differences between the two types of leave?

While we often use both phrases to mean the same thing, bereavement leave is specifically when an employee takes time off after the death of a loved one.

Compassionate leave, on the other hand, can refer to time off to look after a dependant, or a sick relative, too.

Despite this distinction, there still isn't such a thing as statutory compassionate leave entitlement in the UK. It's all at your discretion.

We recommend that whatever decisions you make on these types of leave, differentiate between the two in your policies.

It's up to you to be ready for the day when an employee requests time off due to the death of a loved one.


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