CIPD | Calls for the right for bereavement leave and pay to be extended

Calls for the right for bereavement leave and pay to be extended

As the UK leaves enforced lockdown due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, questions are being raised over the treatment of workers suffering from the loss of a friend or family member.

According to the latest Department of Health and Social Care figures, the complete number of UK deaths as a direct consequence of contracting the coronavirus currently totals 45,318.

As a response to the mental toll that bereavement due to the pandemic has caused, the professional HR body the CIPD has penned an open letter to the Business Secretary Alok Sharma, calling on the UK Government to introduce the right to bereavement leave and pay to all employees experiencing a close family bereavement.

If the CIPD-backed legislation were to be introduced, 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.

Whilst bereavement has been a key HR talking point throughout the duration of the pandemic, the CIPD’s proposal came about as a response to 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.

Aside from this new 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 dependents, the law does not state how much time can be taken.

"Managing bereavement in the workplace is incredibly challenging,” noted Joanne Frew, DWF's National Head of Employment. "While the introduction of statutory bereavement leave and pay was seen as a step in the right direction, many consider that the legislation did not go far enough. The subject of bereavement leave and pay has been passionately debated with calls to legislate being resisted by previous governments as ‘not feasible’,” she added.  

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.

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Research from the CIPD found that just over half of all employees said that they were aware of their employer having a policy or support in place for employees experiencing bereavement, while many were not. 

“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,” said Claire McCartney, Senior Resourcing and Inclusion Adviser at the CIPD.

“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.”

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