Dealing with loss is a terrible thing and knowing how to talk about loss to your employer can be an extra stress you don’t need. Loss can happen at any time and everyone one of us will be faced with this situation at some point in our lives. When the death of a family member or loved one is experienced, it can be hard to juggle giving yourself the time you need to grieve and taking care of all the things that need to be taken care of when a death occurs.
How to talk about loss to your employer… One step at a time
One of the major items on that list to be taken care of for a lot of people will be informing their employer that the death of a loved one has occurred and asking for as much time as you need away from the workplace to grieve. This can be a daunting task for anyone, regardless of how much you love or loath your employer, so this article will guide you through what you can expect from your employer, while giving you some tips to ensure you get what you need in an extremely sensitive part of your life.
How should I expect my employer to behave?
Any good employer should treat you with the kindness, respect, and dignity that you deserve. The best ones will not only consider your physical state but also your mental health, as bereavement can have such a detrimental effect on it. Your employer should try and meet some of your immediate needs, whether that is someone to talk to or by offering relevant services from one of their providers that may help you through this difficult period. Importantly, they should consider that grief is different in everyone, that there is no correct or incorrect way to grieve and appreciate the fact that grieving is not a set out process with dates and milestones. A good employer will have your back in your hour of need!
What are my rights at work?
You will be comforted to know that there are rules in place in the UK around bereavement that your employer must adhere to, thanks to strong employment law within the country. Though this does give employees rights, it does not necessary cover every bereavement that you may experience in life. At present in the UK, anyone who is an employee has the legal right to time off if a ‘dependant’ dies. A dependent could be your spouse, the loss of your parent or the loss of your child (though unfortunately this is only if they are under 18). While in the previous cases outlined there would be a right to time off, you will be saddened to know that there is no legal right for this time off to be paid. Thankfully, some great employers do offer bereavement as paid leave regardless of the law.
Rules for dependents are different
If the person you have lost is anyone other than your child, then the law does not state how much time can be taken off to grieve when a dependant dies. It vaguely states that the amount that can be taken should be ‘reasonable,’ a grey area which could potentially lead to conflict in some circumstances with a not very understanding employer... If you are unfortunate enough to have a child die who is under the age of 18 or if a pregnancy results in a stillborn after 24 weeks, then you are entitled to parental bereavement leave of 2 weeks. This was introduced thanks to a fantastic campaign by grieving parents which is referred to as Jack’s law.
If the person you have lost is not a dependent, then in law there is no entitlement to time off. Although time off does not have to be granted, the employer should still be understanding of what the individual is going through, showing kindness and compassion as you would expect from any decent employer.
What should I be aware of?
Although it will not be a task to look forward it, you should check and discuss the employer’s bereavement policy if they have one. This should outline their stance on bereavement, where you may see phrases such as bereavement, compassionate leave, or special leave as references to their policy. If there is no policy in place, then you should discuss what options are available to you with your employer. Regardless of whether a bereavement policy is present or not, you may agree to take the time off as sick or holiday leave which is fully allowable under law.
Some other useful things to be aware of are as followed:
• If a dependant has died, then you are legally entitled to be able to attend the funeral. There is no legal right for this to be paid, though your employer may do so anyway. If they do not agree to pay you for this time off, then you may come to an agreement to take it off as a paid holiday or unpaid leave.
• Although it will not be at the forefront of your mind, it may be worth considering what your financial situation is going to look like, especially if your employer has taken the decision not to pay you for your leave.
• If your reason for time off is for a stillbirth or miscarriage after 24 weeks, then the biological mother can receive up to 1 year of statutory maternity leave or payment. The mother will also still be entitled to 2 weeks of parental bereavement leave upon the completion of their maternity leave.
Hopefully, this short guide has given you some extra confidence to have what can be an extremely difficult conversation with your boss in one of life’s saddest moments. Overall, employers will be amazing in this area, providing you with all the support and reassurance that you need to get you through. A lot of people can also use their colleagues for support, as we do tend to spend a lot of time with them after, making them a perfect group to lean on. If things do not go easy with your employer, then remember your rights and that there is no shame in grieving!
Find more helpful articles over at our blog