How much Compassionate Leave are employees entitled to?

This is an area we have numerous queries about. To clarify, an employee who suffers the death of a specific relative are entitled to compassionate leave from work. Under section 57(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, "an employee is entitled to be permitted by their employer to take a reasonable amount of time off, during the employee's working hours, in order to take action which is necessary... in consequence of the death of a dependant."
 
A dependant is defined as the following people;
 
• Mother
• Father
• Spouse
• Partner
• Son
• Daughter
• Any member of an employee’s household who’s everyday care is their responsibility.
 
Employees are usually allowed up to 3 days leave and a further 1 day to attend the funeral.
 
It is at the employer's discretion as to whether to pay the employee for this time; however, it has been recommended that the initial 3 days should be paid.
 
Any time scales an individual employer wishes to set out should be placed into an employee's contract of employment or staff handbook to avoid confusion at a later date. We suggest the 3 days unpaid is fair in these circumstances, however it has been known for some employers to grant up to 5 days paid leave. Again, this is discretional.
 
This leave, however, only applies to immediate family, there is a grey area over the family of an employees spouse or the death of close friends, etc. Employers should be understanding and flexible to allow as much unpaid leave as necessary. It will be dependent on the individuals circumstances as to how much paid leave is granted.
 

Published: 28 Sep 2011

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