In instances of the loss of a close relative, employees may be entitled to bereavement leave to help cope with the loss. Bereavement leave entitlements provide for employees to take leave at any time and for any purpose relating to the death. It also does not need to be used immediately or even on consecutive days. This can be a delicate matter and managing this process properly is very important for the ongoing relationship between you, as the employer, and the employee.
To qualify for bereavement leave, an employee, regardless of their type of employment, needs to meet any of the below criteria:
• have worked for six months continuously for the employer
• have worked for the employer for six months for an average of 10 hours per week, or at least one hour in every week or 40 hours in every month
Employees are able to use bereavement leave following the death of an immediate family member. The definition of an immediate family member covers a number of relations:
• partner’s parent
Regardless of any days off you may wish to give, there are minimum bereavement entitlements available to each employee as follows:
• three days per death of any of the above relatives
• one day on the death of another person if the employer accepts there is bereavement. Whether there has been bereavement or not depends on how close the employee was with the deceased, their involvement in funeral, or similar, ceremonies, and any cultural responsibilities in relation to the death
Provided the employee meets the criteria listed above, they are entitled to bereavement leave every 12 months. If any changes to work mean they are not entitled to the above, the employee may re-qualify once they have met the six month requirement.
It is important to remember that there is an obligation for the employee to tell the employer as soon as possible of any bereavement for which they wish to take leave.
A situation may arise where an employee has suffered a tragic loss, and does not have enough leave to appropriately deal with the loss. In this case, with agreement from both the employer and the employee, the employee may be able to take bereavement leave in advance or annual leave in place of bereavement leave.
An employer and employee can agree to utilise bereavement leave if an employee hasn’t met the six-month criteria or if they wish to take extra bereavement leave over the minimum amount. Again, it is important to note this must be agreed to by both parties.
Where an employee is on bereavement leave and a public holiday falls in this period, if the employee would normally have worked on the day, this is treated as a paid, unworked public holiday. This will mean the employee would be paid their standard daily pay and is not entitled to time and a half or an alternative holiday. Also, that no deduction of bereavement leave will take place.
Annual leave presents another unique situation for bereavement leave. If an employee is just about to take annual leave and experiences a bereavement, the employee is entitled to use bereavement leave for the appropriate period. If an employee is already on annual leave and has a bereavement, the employer is again required to let bereavement leave be utilised instead of annual leave for the bereavement period.
Bereavement leave can be a sensitive issue and the process you follow as an employer is very important. For assistance contact our advice line day or night on 0800 675 700.