Does the UK have bereavement leave?

Dealing with a loss can impact every aspect of your life, including your work. Not only is it difficult to continue working while you are grieving, but there are also practical reasons you might need time off work. Making funeral arrangements, attending the funeral, and dealing with your loved one's estate are all reasons that you might need to take a step back from work.

In the UK, there is no statutory bereavement leave. This means that there is no automatic entitlement to time off work for employees who have lost a loved one. However, many employers do offer compassionate leave or bereavement leave as part of their terms and conditions of employment.

The amount of time off offered will vary from employer to employer, but it is generally around three days or five days. Employees are not required to use all of their entitlement at once and can take the time off in blocks if they prefer. 

Some employers will go as far as stipulating which relatives and loved ones qualify for bereavement leave. For example, it could include immediate family members, but not aunts and uncles.

Some employers may also allow employees to take unpaid leave if they do not feel ready to return to work after they have used their bereavement leave. Unpaid leave simply means that you can take time off without eating into your holiday allowance, but you won't be paid for this time.

What is bereavement leave?

Bereavement leave is compassionate time off work. It is not a legal obligation in the UK, but many employers include it in their employment contracts. By including it in their contacts, this removes any ambiguity about what is permitted, so this can actually work to the employer's advantage.

Some situations may need to be dealt with as they arise. For example, if the policy states that bereavement leave can only be taken for the loss of an immediate family member, but you were particularly close to your Aunt, then your employer might make an exception. Likewise, if you are responsible for managing their will, you may need more time to handle the legal side of things.

How long should you take off for a bereavement?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It will depend on the individual and their relationship to the person who has died. Some people might feel able to return to work straight away, while others might need several weeks.

It is a good idea to talk to your employer about your situation as soon as possible. This will allow them to make any necessary arrangements to cover your absence. It will also give you an opportunity to discuss how much time you think you will need off.

Are employers obliged to offer bereavement leave?

No, employers are not obliged to offer bereavement leave. This is because there is no statutory entitlement to time off for employees who have lost a loved one. However, you do have the right to take time off to deal with an emergency, and this includes the death of a dependent. 

However, many employers will have their own bereavement leave policy in place and this is something that you should check when you start a new job. Some employers may offer paid leave, while others may offer unpaid leave.

If your bereavement impacts your mental health and you are unfit to work, you may be signed off by your doctor. In this case, you would have to take sick leave, rather than bereavement leave.

What are your rights if you need to take time off for bereavement?

If you need to take time off for bereavement, you should speak to your employer as soon as possible. Let them know how much time you need and when you would like to take the leave.

Your employer does not have to grant your request, but they should consider it sympathetically. If your request is denied, your employer should explain why. At the very least, you should be given the option to take unpaid leave to deal with your grief.

While there is no statutory right to take time off for a loss, you do have the right to take time off to deal with an emergency, and this includes the death of a dependent.