In an open letter to the Business Secretary Alok Sharma, the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, is calling on the Government to introduce the right to bereavement leave and pay to all employees experiencing a close family bereavement. The call follows the introduction of Jack’s Law, a legal right to paid bereavement leave for working parents who lose a child under the age of 18, in April this year.  

It would mean that employees who experience the loss of any close family member – including a parent, child, partner or sibling, whether by blood, adoption or through marriage/a partner – would have the right to two weeks’ leave or paid leave from work. Aside from Jack’s Law, there is currently no legal requirement for employers to pay employees who take leave following the death of a close family member, and while employees have the right to ‘reasonable’ time off work to deal with emergencies involving dependants, the law does not state how much time can be taken. 

The CIPD and Lucy Herd’s call has been backed by Alex James, BereavementUK Founder; Emma Donaldson-Feilder, Director of Affinity Coaching Supervision; and charity Cruse Bereavement Care. Lucy Herd is the founder of Jack’s Rainbow who has long campaigned for changes to bereavement leave and supported the successful introduction of parental bereavement legislation named after her son; Jack’s Law.  

Research from the CIPD found that just over half (54%) of employees said that they were aware of their employer having a policy or support in place for employees experiencing bereavement, while many were not. Bereavement can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing and organisations risk adding work-related stress to what is already a difficult situation if they do not make it clear to employees the bereavement policies that are in place and the support services available to them.  

Claire McCartney, Senior Resourcing and Inclusion Adviser at the CIPD, comments: 

“Losing a family member, partner or friend can have a devastating impact on a person’s mental health and wellbeing and employees experiencing bereavement need to be treated with compassion and support in the workplace. Most people have experienced bereavement at some point, and sadly in the UK tens of thousands of people have died as a result of COVID-19 this year. Many people will not have been able to say a proper goodbye to loved ones due to Coronavirus, which will have been incredibly difficult. It is vital for organisations to properly support those who are experiencing grief and loss by developing policies that offer long-term support and to ensure that line managers are equipped to support bereaved employees. Grief is neither linear nor predictable so employers must also recognise individual circumstances.  

“The introduction of Jack’s Law in April was an important step forward in recognising the need for parental bereavement leave and pay. We want to see this extended to all employees who are experiencing a bereavement of a close family member. 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.” 

The CIPD has today launched new guidance for employers on compassionate and comprehensive bereavement support. It encourages employers to develop a bereavement policy, to empower managers to support employees, put in place flexible working practices to best support employee needs, and provide information to employees on workplace support for bereavement. A separate line manager guide is also available and focuses on how to manage and support a member of your team who has suffered a bereavement. 

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