What options are available for an employee who needs to take time off work for a bereavement? What are they automatically entitled to?

Currently there is no obligation for an employer to grant compassionate leave on the event of a bereavement, although most employers will allow time off in the event of the bereavement of a close relative.  An employee has a statutory entitlement to time off for a dependant.  The time off is to deal with emergencies or unexpected events involving a dependant, including time off to arrange or attend the funeral.   Alternatively, an employee can request holiday.  From 6th April 2020, all employees who lose a child under 18, or suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks’ pregnancy, will be entitled to 2 weeks’ statutory paid leave.

What responsibility does an employer have to an employee going through a bereavement?

An employer has a duty of care generally and will need to assess health & safety.  For example, the employee may be having sleepless nights which could impact on the employee to safely carry out their role.

What can someone do if their employer refuses to give them compassionate or bereavement leave?

An employee should discuss the matter with their employer to see whether the leave can be taken on some other way, e.g. holiday or they can raise a grievance.

If someone is suffering with a mental health issue due to a bereavement, what options do they have when it comes to time off work?

If unfit to attend work due to mental health issues, the employee can report sick.  Certain mental health issues can amount to a disability.  An employer cannot discriminate against an employee who has a disability and is obliged to consider and make reasonable adjustments.

What top tips would you give to an employer to help an employee facing a bereavement?

An employer should be compassionate to the employee’s situation.  An employer might want to consider giving the employee the time off necessary and they should keep in touch during any absence.   Consider the employee’s emotional well-being when they return to work and whether there is any further support required.   Adopting a compassionate and supportive approach demonstrates that an organisation values its employees.