Compassionate Leave UK: Eligibility, Requirements, and More
Written by: Carin Vreede
Last updated: 5 December 2023
Table of contents
- What is compassionate leave?
- Types of compassionate leave
- The law on bereavement leave in the UK
- What Is parental bereavement leave?
- Compassionate leave for family emergencies
- Why do employers need a compassionate leave policy?
- Can an employer refuse compassionate leave?
- How to implement a compassionate leave policy?
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is compassionate leave?
Compassionate leave allows employees to take time off from work to deal with an emergency, such as a personal or family illness. It can include caring for a sick family member, dealing with a death in the family, or coping with a natural disaster. It is also known as bereavement leave.
Compassionate or bereavement leave is typically unpaid, but some employers may offer compassionate leave paid in certain circumstances. This leave can also be known as carer's, family, or bereavement leave.
Talk to your employer about taking compassionate leave if you're dealing with a personal or family emergency. They will be able to tell you if you're eligible for this type of leave and how to apply for it.
Types of compassionate leave
Depending on your circumstances, you may be entitled to a few different types of compassionate leave.
This type of leave is typically taken when an employee experiences a death in the immediate family member or has a sick family member. This leave is usually unpaid, but some employers may also offer paid leave.
This type of leave is taken when an employee experiences the death of a close family member, such as a spouse or parent. This leave is usually unpaid, but some employers may also offer paid leave.
This type of leave is taken when an employee has a grievance with the company, such as being the victim of harassment or discrimination. This leave allows the employee to file a complaint or take legal action against the company.
Must Reads :
- What is a Workplace Grievance? A Guide for Managers
- Discrimination in the Workplace: Best Preventative Practices
The law on bereavement leave in the UK
Employers in the UK are allowed to take compassionate or bereavement leaves, but the law is extremely vague regarding payment. In accordance with the Employment Rights Act 1996, employees are entitled to a "reasonable" amount of time off for emergencies.
It is not a statutory right to receive payment for bereavement leave. However, the law states that such time off will not be granted for situations that employees are aware of in advance.
If a parent loses a child (under 18) or has a stillbirth, they may be eligible for paid parental bereavement leave for two weeks following the death.
What Is parental bereavement leave?
In April 2020, the UK introduced a legal entitlement for parental bereavement leave. Stillbirth or death of a child is the reason for the introduction of this leave.
The parents of a deceased child or a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy are legally entitled to two weeks of bereavement leave if the child died before 18 years of age. Furthermore, this leave does not require notice within 56 weeks after death.
There is also the option of taking two separate weeks of leave instead of two consecutive weeks. During Parental Bereavement Leave, parents who have worked for their employers for at least 26 weeks will receive Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (SPBP). In addition to SPBP, employees receive 90% of their average earnings or £151.90 per week.
Compassionate leave for family emergencies
According the UK government, employees may take time off for emergencies involving dependents as part of the first policy. UK, a dependent relies on you for care, such as a spouse, a partner, a child, a grandchild, or a parent. A reasonable amount of time must be allowed for leave, but no particular amount is recommended, allocated, or required.
Although there are no limits to how often employees may take time off for dependants, employers are not required to pay these compassionate leaves.
The employee cannot take this type of leave if the situation is known ahead of time. For example, compassionate leave is unavailable if an employee needs to attend a hospital appointment. Parental leave is another option that may be available to employees. As a result, the employer is free to allow the absence and pay for it.
Why do employers need a compassionate leave policy?
Compassionate leave is an employer's means of responding to an employee's devastating loss. The company expresses empathy for grieving employees and understands they need time to deal with difficult feelings and process their grief.
Company cultures have a great effect on a company's success, and business owners are increasingly doing their part to adjust their company's culture. Business owners are increasingly aware of the importance of balancing work and private lives and how strong relationships can increase employee engagement and productivity.
Can an employer refuse compassionate leave?
In the United Kingdom, compassionate leave entitlement does not exist. Employers don't have to grant compassionate leave if it's requested. If your company policy says employees can take compassionate leave under certain circumstances, you might need to honour it, depending on the contract.
Employers can refuse compassionate leave if the contract says it's a discretionary right. In case the right is contractual. However, the company may deny the request if it complies with policy conditions.
The refusal of compassionate leave by an employee could lead to a dispute over a breach of employment contract, even though compassionate leave is not a legal entitlement. Bereavement leave, as well as dependent leave, are both statutory entitlements.
An employer must allow an employee to take time off when dealing with a critical emergency involving a dependent or when a child dies. Unpaid compassionate leave, annual leave, or the ability to make up the time later are all options you can use if you can't offer paid compassionate leave to your employees.
How to implement a compassionate leave policy?
A bereavement leave policy should be included in the employee handbook. Employees facing bereavement will know what to expect and avoid awkward conversations. Furthermore, managers will be aware of any bereavement policies and won't have to make difficult decisions on leaving.
Managers should be able to handle requests for extra time off sensitively if a bereavement leave policy incorporates an element of flexibility. The workplace should offer various options for employees to cope effectively with their grief and return to work after a loss. Not everyone grieves the same way, so options should be available to employees.
A personal approach and working with bereaved employees to agree on the best plan are essential. It would help if you also had the option of reducing your hours or phasing back your work schedule and some paid time off.
General bereavement leave amounts depend on the relationship between the employee and the deceased, with an immediate family eligible for the full amount. But losing a friend or an animal can be just as devastating.
Employers who are trying to strike the right balance may find this challenging. That is why they need to have a certain level of flexibility to handle each case uniquely.
Compassionate leave in the UK typically lasts three to five days when a close relative dies (spousal, civil partner, partner, sibling, child), 2-3 days if the relationship is less close (grandparents, grandchildren, step-parents), and one day if an in-law, aunt, uncle, or cousin passes away. Deaths in the family may involve travel, dealing with affairs, funeral arrangements, and attending the funeral itself.
Companies need to consider how stingy compassionate leave impacts long-term commitments and productivity. Employees and employers should approach the situation in a balanced, supportive, and flexible manner.
Frequently Asked Questions
Bereavement leave pay and compassionate leave pay do not have any hard-and-fast rules. It depends on the policies you have in place whether or not employees are paid for their time off.
Providing compassionate leave is a right of all employees, so the employer does not have to state it. Nevertheless, employers can set the rules for compassionate or bereavement leave policies, including notice periods, paid and unpaid leave terms, and any other considerations necessary.
With years of experience in the HR field, Carin has a lot of experience with HR processes. As a content marketer, she translates this knowledge into engaging and informative content that helps companies optimize their HR processes and motivate and develop their employees.
Please note that the information on our website is intended for general informational purposes and not as binding advice. The information on our website cannot be considered a substitute for legal and binding advice for any specific situation. While we strive to provide up-to-date and accurate information, we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of the information on our website for any purpose. We are not liable for any damage or loss arising from the use of the information on our website.
Ready to try Shiftbase for free?
Save time and money
Ready to try Shiftbase for free?Try for free