It is high time funeral people got behind statutory bereavement leave

Charles 4 Comments


David Cameron took 2 weeks off when Ivan died

A survey just out shows that 70 per cent of people support statutory paid bereavement leave.

The record shows that churches, celebrant organisations and undertakers’ trade associations aren’t remotely interested in offering any leadership in the matter whatever. Are you aware of anything any of them has said on the matter? 

This is curious. The vocational focus of people who work with the bereaved might be supposed to be the promotion of their emotional health. What else? 

Presently, a bereaved person has no legal right to take time off after a bereavement beyond time off to make funeral arrangements and time off to attend the funeral. More detail here. In the words of Acas: “Employees cannot expect to be granted leave automatically. When leave isn’t granted, they may have to use their holiday allowance.”

Did you sign the e-petition got up by Lucy Herd? If you didn’t, it’s too late now; it’s closed. 

What value can an employee offer when forced back into the workplace after a traumatic bereavement? Very little, you might think. But when presenting his private members Bill to the commons, Labour MP Tom Harris offered these examples: 

“In one case that was recently televised on an episode of Channel 4’s “Undercover Boss”, a driver for the waste disposal company Biffa was forced back to work just a day after the loss of his daughter. In another tragic case a father, a builder, was expected back to work five days after he lost his daughter to sudden infant death syndrome. Despite feeling unready to return to work, having barely slept, the man was told to resume work or lose his job. On yet another occasion, a parent was given just three days off after the death of his four-year-old son. The funeral was arranged on the fourth day, leading to the man having to use up his paid holiday leave to attend.”

Harris’ Bill is awaiting its second reading in the Commons on 24 January 2014. There’s time yet for celebrants and undertakers to get their acts together. 

Lobbying Parliament for an increase in the Social Fund Funeral Payment is all well and good. The campaign for statutory bereavement leave is the clear priority. 





  1. Charles

    Bad stories. Now the British Stiff Upper Lip has been getting more and more wobbly over the lest few decades, it is surely time to admit that a worker can’t be expected to get down t’pit the day after his child’s funeral – no it’s not good for him/her – or if it is, s/he might decide that, not t’boss.

    I’m not an entirely enthusiastic supporter of all of Mr Cameron’s policies, to put it mildly, but he did the right thing when their son died. And whilst my BSULip is wobbling this a.m. – we seem to be unable to criticise politicians without assaulting their personalities and appearances. One look at faces in the above shot might remind us of all that we do share with people whose views we don’t share. We don’t need to dehumanise those we disagree with.

    (Yes, that even applies to Mr Gove.)

  2. Charles

    Does it really matter what job a worker does, each and everyone of us has feelings, Even the hardest of men cry and with the death of a loved one regardless of age, time off should be given to grieve the loss.
    Gloria you mention one look at faces in the above picture, this shows the Cameron’s are as ordinary as any other grieving parents.
    Should bereavement leave be granted to all, in my view yes it should and no one can really say for how long, Each one of us is as Individual as can be……

  3. Charles

    I agree entirely. It is ridiculous to suppose that someone is capable of going back to work so soon after a loss.
    However, I’m not sure I agree that this is a higher priority than the social fund. Equal, certainly, but not higher.
    Where we are the suffering caused by the outdated legislation is huge.
    The whole approach to bereavement and funerals needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

  4. Charles

    I signed it – and was somewhat disappointed to see the Gov response… leaving good employers to be good and bad employers to be bad. We need to lobby our MPs over this issue.

    This e-petition has received the following response:
    As this e-petition has received more than 10 000 signatures, the relevant Government department have provided the following response:

    The death of a family member is deeply upsetting for those involved and the Government would expect any employer to respond to such situations with sensitivity and flexibility. However, the Government believes that all requests for leave related to bereavement are best left for employers and their employees to decide between themselves.

    The Government has not legislated for bereavement leave in any situation and there are no plans to introduce a specific right to support bereaved parents/relatives. In doing so we would be obliged to put in place limits, standards and definitions. The amount of leave needed can vary from one individual to another, and defining what family relationship would qualify for such leave, would be difficult, as it would be impossible to legislate for every circumstance.

    Whilst there is no specific right to “bereavement leave”, all employees do have a day-one right to “time off for dependants” which allows them to take a reasonable amount of time off work to deal with unexpected or sudden emergencies, including when a close family member dies. Time off will cover arranging and attending the funeral. Employees who exercise this right are protected against dismissal or victimisation. The right does not include an entitlement to pay. The decision as to whether the employee will be paid is left to the employer’s discretion or to the contract of employment between them.

    The Government hopes that employers are as sympathetic and flexible as possible in responding to employee requests for time off, particularly when bereavement is involved.

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