Compassionate Leave: Employee rights

Losing a relative or loved one can be an incredibly difficult time for anyone. This can be exacerbated with your employer only giving you a day or two off to grieve. The problem being that there is no legal requirement for employers to provide paid leave to those in mourning. So unfortunately a lot of it comes down to the contract that you have with your employer.

Workers do have a right to reasonable time off after an emergency involving a dependant.[1] However this will often only amount to one or two days off which for most people is not enough to deal with things such as funerals or general mourning. Apart from these few days, under the Employment Rights acts, any more time off depends solely upon your contract and your employer. If your contract does contain anything like that, it will most likely not amount to any more than 3 to 5 days off and even then it won’t necessarily be paid. If you want any more than that you will then have to either take unpaid leave, start to eat into any holiday allowance you have left for the year or be signed off sick, none of which are ideal solutions to what can be a distressing time.

The ERA, with regard to the right to reasonable time off, unfortunately defines dependant quite rigidly as:

“spouse, child, parent, or person who lives in the same household as the employee, otherwise than by reason of being his employee, tenant, lodger or boarder”.

This means that if a more extended member of your family passes away you still might not be allowed this time off if your employer is quite strict with following the letter of the law. Meaning you would be relying solely on the contract or the leniency of your employer.

This is not to say that your employer would not let you have time off, they don’t all have hearts of stone. There are examples of employers being willing to give time off for employee’s to mourn. The problem then is, of course, having to pay for someone to cover you whilst you are off which for a smaller business in these tough economic times might not be the easiest of things to do.

The best advice is, if you do suffer a loss in your family, speak openly and honestly with your employer about the time you think you are going to require off and to come to some sort of compromise.