Bereavement Leave: Should employees work while grieving?

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21 Dec 2016

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While the Government state that workers are entitled to a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off work, no actual rules exist to dictate the official time employees are allowed off work after a close family member dies.

Mental health experts, charities and some politicians are now calling for a major rethink concerning how grieving employees are treated. Mental health professionals recently told Radio 1’s Newsbeat that it is currently a big concern. The amount of time off due to bereavement is difficult to attain, as it can often be recorded as ‘stress’ or similar reasons. Leeds Suicide Bereavement Service support worker, Laura Pattison, told Newsbeat that not every case is the same. "When you lose someone it's important to get your life back to normal as soon as possible, but it takes some people longer than others," she said. "There are people who experience a loss on the Monday and are being asked to come back to work on the Friday. "We've seen them spiral into debt, homelessness and addiction." A number of charities and experts told the news broadcaster that they want bereavement leave to be viewed just as importantly as paternity leave, and have put forward that all workers should be entitled to at least five paid days per year. John Palmer, Senior Guidance Managing Editor for ACAS, has presented a number of questions on behalf of employers to set out clarity with regard to the leave, such as flexibility and definition for what period of time would be considered. The main concern for employers would be the cost of the leave, especially for small businesses. However, mental health experts argue that not allowing appropriate time for employees to grieve could present bigger problems further down the line, which could cost an employer more in the long run. Many employers are compassionate where bereavement is concerned, but it is advisable for your contract to lay out your guidelines if such an unfortunate event occurs. The government is said to be ‘exploring options’.

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