A Guide to Handling Compassionate Leave


03 Jan 2019


Dealing with bereavement is difficult. Most of us will experience it at some point in our career and will need to ask for time off to grieve.

Compassionate (or bereavement) leave provides employees with time off work for grieving or managing whatever issues that might arise.

As an employer, it’s hard not to show compassion when your staff members are facing personal problems. However, when trying to run a business, unscheduled absences can cause disruptions to productivity and timelines.

What is compassionate leave?

It’s a period of absence from work. A staff member can claim compassionate leave as a result of a personal circumstance that may prevent them from carrying out their duties effectively.

Staff can ask for this type of leave when an immediate family member dies or is facing a life-threatening illness.

Compassionate leave law

The government states that all employees (including casual staff) must get a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to deal with issues involving family and other dependants.

Are employees entitled to paid compassionate leave?

As an employer in the UK, you’re under no obligation to provide members of your team with compassionate leave, paid or otherwise.

However, you should write a policy on how the company intends to handle requests.

How long is compassionate leave in the UK?

Although staff can get time off to take care of dependants, there’s no set amount of time as it’ll depend on the employee’s specific situation.

There’s also no limit to the number of times you can take time off work for dependants.

Who is a dependant?

 According to Gov.UK, a dependant could be a:

  • Anyone else that depends on you for care.

When can employees take time off work?

Under Section 57(A) and 57(B) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, staff members can take reasonable time off where it’s necessary to deal with:

  • An unexpected accident involving a dependant.
  • Provisions of care for an ill or injured dependant.
  • The death of a dependant.
  • Other unexpected incidents involving an employee’s child during school hours.

Compassionate leave policy

You should make it available to your staff in your company handbook, the employment contract and even on your website.

Compassionate leave pay

It isn’t a requirement for you to pay your staff for the time taken off to look after dependants. It’s up to your discretion to pay your employees when they take time off.

Either way, you should have a policy that answers your worker’s questions about taking time off.

Expert advice

Speak to one of our experts for help with addressing compassionate leave in the workplace. We can also create a policy that’s consistent with your company goals and values. Call us on 01455 858 132.

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