Letter to the Business Secretary calling for bereavement leave

Sue Ryder and a coalition of MPs, charities, businesses, faith leaders, and healthcare professionals are calling on the Government to introduce statutory paid bereavement leave for all UK employees grieving the loss of a close relative or partner.

The Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
1 Victoria Street
London, SW1H 0ET

12 January 2021

Dear Secretary of State,

We are writing as a broad coalition of politicians, charities, business organisations, professional bodies, faith leaders and healthcare professionals with an interest in bereavement. Given all that the nation has endured in the past year, we implore the Government to introduce two weeks statutory paid bereavement leave, to provide security for those who are grieving the loss of a close relative or partner.

We know that bereavement can have a significant impact on a person and their work and it is vital that employees are supported with appropriate time off at what is already an extremely difficult time – bereaved employees are highly unlikely to be able to perform well at work if they are forced to return too quickly. What has not been known until now, is the financial cost of grief to the economy and employers.

New research commissioned by Sue Ryder into the economic impact of bereavement has found it costs the UK economy an estimated £23bn a year, largely due to high rates of presenteeism. While bereavement remains a fact of life, if a fraction of the costs associated with bereavement could be mitigated through better support, it would provide a considerable boost to the economy and savings to the NHS.
Whilst many employers offer three to five days compassionate leave for the death of a close relative, it is entirely at the employer’s discretion. CIPD research shows that only 54% of employees say that their organisation has a bereavement policy or any bereavement support in place. It is lower-income workers in less secure jobs who are usually denied any support. Consequently, almost half of employees are unable to take a single day to grieve the loss of a partner or relative, without fearing implications for their job security.

Workplaces could and should play a role in supporting people through their grief. Indeed Sue Ryder research found that among those who had experienced a bereavement and thought their employer had supported them well, 60% cited time off and not being pressured to return to work until they were ready, as the key actions their employer took.

Whilst we very much welcome the introduction of ‘Jack’s Law’, (Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act), we believe that losing a parent, partner or other close relative can also be devastating. If the UK were to adopt a statutory minimum of two weeks bereavement leave for the loss of an immediate family member, it would enable all those suffering from a close bereavement to get the crucial support that they need from their employer.

We were disappointed that Minister Paul Scully MP stated in Parliament that people grieving for their loved ones who are not granted discretionary bereavement leave “are already entitled to take up to 5.6 weeks of annual leave a year” and could use this instead. However, it is often the lower paid and those in less secure employment who are unable to take time off to start processing their pain – they often do not have the option of flexible working, cannot call in sick, and unpaid leave is not a viable option. Bereavement is not a holiday.

At this time of national crisis, in the interests of helping the nation to heal after months of fear and hurt, we urge you to reconsider your stance: as the Government looks to Build Back Better from the current pandemic, statutory paid bereavement leave for an immediate family member is a clear example of a bold, compassionate and caring commitment to UK workers.

If we may, a representative of Sue Ryder will follow up this letter to see if a meeting can be arranged to discuss this further and explore their research in more detail.

Yours sincerely

Heidi Travis, Chief Executive, Sue Ryder
Carl Ennis, Chief Executive, Siemens plc
Dr Ian Bullock, Chief Executive, Royal College of Physicians
Dr Ian Lawrie, President of the Association for Palliative Medicine of Great Britain and Ireland
Tracey Bleakley, Chief Executive, Hospice UK
Claire McCartney, Senior Policy Advisor for Inclusion and Diversity, CIPD
Steven Wibberley, Chief Executive, Cruse Bereavement Care
Alison Penny, Coordinator, National Bereavement Alliance
Beth French, Director, Let’s Talk About Loss
Alison Payne, Research Director, Reform Scotland
Vicky Wilson, Chief Executive, Settld
Lisa Lund, Director, National Bereavement Service
Mary Williams OBE, Chief Executive, Sudden
Emily Cummin, Chief Executive, Untangle
The Rt Rev. the Lord Bishop of Durham
The Baroness Lister of Burtersett CBE
Debbie Abrahams MP
Sir David Amess MP
Steven Bonnar MP
Allan Dorans MP
Peter Dowd MP
Jonathan Edwards MP
Marion Fellows MP
Patricia Gibson MP
Sir John Hayes MP
Mike Hill MP
Rachel Hopkins MP
Sir George Howarth MP
Christine Jardine MP
Ben Lake MP
Caroline Lucas MP
Stewart McDonald MP
Grahame Morris MP
Gavin Newlands MP
Sarah Owen MP
Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP
Alexander Stafford MP
Chris Stephens MP
Zarah Sultana MP
Richard Thomson MP
Dr Philippa Whitford MP
Mohammad Yasin MP

Add your name to demand bereavement leave for all

Everyone in the UK deserves the right to bereavement leave if they lose a loved one.