If you are employed, you're entitled to some bereavement leave from work when a loved one dies. In many circumstances, there is currently no set legal amount of leave. It can really help to know your rights, how the system works and what the rules are around pay.
How much time off work you are allowed is very much dependent on individual employers. Here is some basic guidance about what you may be able to ask for, and how the system works in the UK.
If you are self-employed or a contractor, then there are no legal entitlements for leave, although it may help if you can explain what is happening to the person you are working for early on.
Am I entitled to bereavement leave?
Your right to take time off work is subject to you letting your employer know the reason for your absence as soon as reasonably possible (unless it is an emergency, in which case it should be on your return to work).
- You must also tell them how long you expect to be away from work.
- You don’t have to let them know in writing.
- You do need to give them enough information to determine whether you are entitled to the time off as part of your statutory rights.
Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, most employees have the right to a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off to allow them to deal with unforeseen matters and emergencies involving a dependant or immediate family - including taking leave from work to arrange or attend a funeral.
By law, a ‘dependant’ can be your spouse or civil partner, child, parent or anyone who lives in the same household (unless they are an employee, tenant or lodger), as well as a person who relies on you to make care arrangement for them. It can also be someone who usually depends on you for care or for help during an emergency, such as an elderly neighbour.
If the person who has died is not a dependant or part of your immediate family, then you do not have any specific rights. It is up to your employer whether they allow you to take leave, so speak with them as the death of someone who is a close friend or part of your chosen family can still be grounds for bereavement leave from work.
How long can I have off work after a bereavement?
There is no set legal amount of time off work you are entitled to after someone has died. It is common for employers to give about three to five days, but all organisations have different policies and/or exercise their discretion differently.
If your employer has a bereavement leave or compassionate leave policy, this should set out your entitlement. If they don’t have a policy, it is at their discretion as to how reasonable they are prepared to be.
Your employer will need to treat all members of staff consistently and could be bound by previous custom and practice. In some cases, you may be asked to use part of your holiday allowance.
Because the time people are allowed off is often short, you may have to make difficult choices in the run up to someone dying. Having a limited amount of time off work can make it difficult to be with your loved one at the end.
This can add to the stress and anxiety of coping when someone you care about is dying. Most hospices have a social worker who can help you with financial issues and may be able to help you plan how you can afford to take the time you need.
What if I need more time off work to grieve?
You might be glad to get back to work, as it provides a distraction and a way to fill the time. However, you may well feel that you are not ready to go back to work. Again, it is at the discretion of your employer how much leave they offer you and whether they extend this.
If you feel that you need longer than your employer has offered, then you can apply to use some of your annual leave.
Immediately after your friend or relative has died may not be the only time that you feel you need time off. Most people who are grieving for a friend or relative find it incredibly difficult to work on particular days, such as birthdays and anniversaries.
Some employers may allow you to take additional compassionate leave around these times, although it is also very common for people to take these days as sick leave.
At the moment I can't get through a couple of hours without crying, and I can't contemplate being able to cope at work.
Will I be paid for bereavement leave?
You do not have a statutory right to be paid for any time you take off around the time or after your friend or relative dies. But many companies do offer some paid bereavement leave – so it’s worth checking your contract of employment your company’s policy on compassionate leave if they have one.
Unfortunately, if you are employed you might find that you can’t afford to take the time off that you need. And, if you are self-employed, you will not be able to take any paid time off. If this is the case, most hospices have a social worker who can help you with financial issues and what bereavement benefits you may be entitled to, or you can contact Citizens Advice.
How to tell your employer about a death
You need to tell your employer if someone close to you has died. This means informing either your line manager or HR Department, or both. You may not want to talk about it face-to-face or over the phone, so email or text them if you’re more comfortable letting them know this way.
It might be useful to let your workplace know when you’ll be getting in touch again next or when you feel OK for them to contact you. Most employers will try to support you as much as they can, but might not know how often or how little to contact you unless you let them know.
You could also discuss whether you want to share the news with other colleagues in your team or wider in the organisation, as well as whether you want to be contacted by them or not while you’re off work.
Be honest about what feels right for you and don’t be afraid to change your mind if you feel differently later on after your bereavement.
What if my employer won’t give me the time off work?
We hope that your employer will be sympathetic to what you are going through. But if your employer refuses to give you time off, then you can raise an informal grievance. You can get support and advice about this from Citizens Advice, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) and your union (if you are a member of one).
Parental bereavement leave and pay
If your child dies before they turn 18 years old, or if you have a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, you and your partner may be able to take time off work.
The death or stillbirth must have happened on or after:
- 6th April 2020 if you’re employed in England, Scotland or Wales
- 6th April 2022 if you’re employed in Northern Ireland.
If you were the child’s parent or a parent’s partner, you may be eligible if at the time of the child’s death or stillbirth, you were:
- their biological or adoptive parent, or the parent of a child born to a surrogate
- the partner of the child or baby’s parent.
As the child or baby’s biological parent, you will not be eligible for Parental Bereavement Leave and Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay after an adoption or parental order was made, unless there was a contact order in place.
Parental Bereavement Leave
You can take 2 weeks’ leave from the first day of your employment for each child who has died or was stillborn if you’re eligible. It doesn’t matter how long you have been working for your employer.
You can take:
- 2 weeks together
- 2 separate weeks of leave
- only one week of leave.
A week is the same number of days that you normally work in a week.
- can start on or after the date of the death or stillbirth
- must finish within 56 weeks of the date of the death or stillbirth.
Taking leave with other types of statutory leave
If you’re taking another type of statutory leave, such as Maternity Leave or Paternity Leave, when the child dies or stillbirth happens, your Parental Bereavement Leave must start after the other leave has ended but does not have to be taken immediately after. This includes if the statutory leave is for another child.
If your Parental Bereavement Leave is interrupted by the start of another type of statutory leave, you can take your remaining entitlement to Parental Bereavement Leave after that other leave has ended.
Your remaining Parental Bereavement Leave must still be taken within 56 weeks of the date of death or stillbirth.
It’s also OK to take Parental Bereavement Leave between blocks of shared parental leave that you booked before the child died. This includes if the shared parental leave is for another child.
Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay
You’ll be able to get either £156.66 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower), if you’re eligible. There are different eligibility criteria for bereavement pay, so you may not be eligible for both Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay.
Any money you receive is paid in the same way as your wages are, weekly or monthly for instance, along with deductions for tax and National Insurance.
Employment rights when on Parental Bereavement Leave
Your employment rights are still protected while you or your partner are on Parental Bereavement Leave.
This includes your right to:
- accrue holiday
- pay rises
- return to work
You might be able to get Parental Bereavement Leave, Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay or both.
Entitlements after the death of a dependant
A dependant can be your child, your parent, your spouse, partner or civil partner or simply someone who relies on you.
Although there is currently no set legal amount of bereavement leave if a dependant has died, the law does say the amount of leave given by your employer should be 'reasonable'.
ACAS also provide advice on taking time off for a dependant to help you.
Entitlements after the death of a parent
If your mum or dad dies, you can get bereavement leave from work as they are part of your immediate family. This includes your step parent, foster parent or surrogate parent.
Unfortunately, you are not eligible for Bereavement Support Payment if one of your parents dies, as this is only claimable if your husband, wife or civil partner dies.