Trust Disputes

Bereavement is something which we will all sadly face in our lives. It is often immensely painful and can affect an individual’s sleep, appetite and ability to concentrate however under current law there is no right to paid time off during this difficult period.

A collection of mental health experts, charities and politicians have now started to campaign for a legal right to time off in the event of bereavement.

The cost and benefit to employers

It could be argued that employers are already under too much pressure from ever increasing costs, such as increased holiday pay and the National Living Wage. The additional costs of bereavement leave could place small employers in a very precarious position.

Employers do however need to consider the damage that might be done to their business if an employee is, understandably, not performing to their usual standards. The risks include negligence claims, prosecution and reputational damage. The level of risk will depend greatly on the industry; work involving heavy machinery, driving, handling financial transactions and providing professional advice could have serious consequences if mistakes are made.

Employers should have a defined scheme so as to avoid discretionary payments. Discretionary payments pose risks to employers as precedents could be set and businesses could be exposed to claims of discrimination if, for example, they have previously granted a female employee’s leave and then reject a male employee’s request.

Bereavement Leave

A large proportion of employers offer some form of bereavement leave (also known as compassionate leave) as part of their enhanced benefits. The number of paid days’ leave varies between employers and some have tiers depending on the closeness of the relationship.

The suggestions being looked at are either:

  • General Bereavement Leave – Five days’ leave per year which could be used for any close relation.
  • Parental Bereavement Leave – Two weeks’ leave in the event of the death of a child. This would enable parents to take leave if they lose their child after their maternity, paternity or shared parental leave has ended.


Losing a loved one can be an exceptionally difficult period in our lives.

For some employees dealing with a loss can cause them to be unwell and signed off from work, often with stress or depression. Any such absence needs to be handled carefully as depending on the nature and extent of the illness and the employee’s length of service, they might have legal protection against discrimination and unfair treatment such as dismissal.

If a legal entitlement to leave is brought in, the government will need to find a balance between the interests of employees and employers. Employers and business groups will need to contribute to any consultation and it is likely that they might seek, for example, to reduce the minimum number of days’ leave, to limit the level of pay arising or to  restrict the categories of individuals whose passing would entitle an employee to time off.

Our employment solicitors work in partnership with organisations to improve their HR practices and advise on employment issues. To discuss this article or any other HR issue call 01392 210700 or