Research suggests that one in ten employees is likely to be affected by bereavement at any given time. This can have many knock-on consequences in the workplace. Staff may need to take time off unexpectedly, find that their performance is affected, or be temporarily unable to carry out some roles. The law in this area is changing. What do you need to know?
Employment Rights Act
The Employment Rights Act is the law currently governing this area. It gives employees the right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off in the event of an emergency involving a dependant. This includes making arrangements on the death of a dependant, and is likely to be agreed between employer and employee on an ad hoc basis. What is ‘reasonable’ in this context is not defined in the legislation, and the involvement of Acas or an employment tribunal would be a last resort here.
The new, government sponsored, Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill got its second reading in Parliament this autumn, and will change the law here. It will provide paid leave for bereaved parents for the very first time. The Bill’s sponsor, Kevin Hollinrake MP, commented ‘This is such an important Bill for parents going through the most terrible of times. There is little any of us can do to help, but at least we can make sure that every employer will give them time to grieve.’
In the meanwhile, employers can visit the Acas good practice guide for helpful guidance in this area. http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4977