Caring for the bereaved?

Facebook doubles bereavement leave, UK chops benefits

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A guide to bereavement leave

Dealing with the death of a loved one is hard enough without having to battle to get the time off work, so it’s important to know what your rights are, or at least know where to turn to find out. This short guide will equip you with everything you need to know.

What is bereavement leave?

Bereavement leave is additional time off work that is granted to people who have recently experienced the death of a loved one. There is no statutory right for you to have paid leave after bereavement, but workers are entitled to a reasonable period of unpaid time off for dependants. Most companies will have a policy on this and you can find this out by talking to your HR team or looking in your staff handbook.

When can I take time off?

"By virtue of the Employment Rights Act 1996, all workers are entitled to 'time off for dependants'." "This means you should get a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with unforeseen matters and emergencies involving a dependant, including time off to arrange or attend a funeral. A dependant is defined as a spouse, a partner, a child, a parent or an individual that the employee provided care for." explains employment law specialist, Leanne Thomas. However, problems can arise if you suffer a loss of someone not classed as a dependant. Many employers will have a policy for compassionate leave that can be found in contracts of employment or staff handbooks. In the absence of such a policy, the question of whether to grant bereavement leave for a non-dependant falls to the discretion of the individual employer.

How much leave are you legally entitled to?

There is no set length of leave which workers must be given. The website suggests that often 'one or two days should be enough' but, over and above this, employer discretion once again comes into play. "Typically bereavement leave is about three to five days long but all organisations will have different policies and/or exercise their discretion differently," explains Leanne Thomas. "The focus should be on ensuring that workers are given sufficient time to come to terms with their loss without granting extensive leave which may have the undesired effect of stirring up feelings of loneliness and isolation in the recently bereaved."

Will you be paid?

There is no statutory right to be paid. Many employers may offer this as a policy choice or as a matter of discretion. "Bereaved workers can therefore be placed in the difficult position of being forced to return to work too early or using holiday entitlement so they avoid a loss of earnings," says Leanne Thomas.

What if you need more time off?

Again, this comes down to employer discretion. If you feel that you need longer than you’re being offered by your employer then you can apply to use a period of your annual leave. "Employers should try to strike a balance here since forcing workers to return to work too early can often be counterproductive since it can push people ‘over the edge’ and this may result in a period of sick leave following the bereavement," adds Leanne Thomas.

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Facebook extends bereavement, family sick leaves for employees

Facebook chief operating officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg announced that the company will be giving 6 weeks of "paid family leaves" for employees who need to care for an ailing family member.

Adding to that, employees who need to care for a family member with a short-term illness will be given an additional 3 days of paid leaves, and 20 days of bereavement leave, double the previous number.

Sandberg - whose husband died after suffering head trauma caused by falling off a treadmill during a vacation in Mexico in May 2015 - said that the issue was personal.

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