ACAS Bereavement

Published on 4 Mar 2022

On 16 February 2022, Acas published new guidance with regards to bereavement leave and pay (replacing the previous guidance). This guidance aims to help employers understand the time off and pay that a bereaved employee may be entitled to and to provide advice regarding bereavement in the workplace on the whole.

During an employee’s working life, it is expected that they will experience the death of someone close to them at some point. Therefore, employers need to know what to do in these circumstances. The updated Acas guidance covers bereavements that may be experienced by an employee following the death of a dependant, a child, stillbirth, miscarriage or a colleague, as well as deaths outside of these categories.

Within the guidance, employers are advised to recognise that grief affects everyone differently and that tailored support may be necessary, both at the time of the bereavement and after the employee has returned to work. The guidance also includes a section aimed at employees which provides advice on what they should do after a death. Employers need to be aware of this and be able to direct employees to it if necessary.

Under the new guidance, employers are advised not to discriminate against bereaved employees when considering time off and support provided, and in line with this, the guidance recommends that employers have a workplace bereavement policy to cover time off and pay. This is not new advice, but further advice has been given as to what should be included within the policy, this being:

  • When the leave for bereavement could apply;
  • How much leave will be provided; and
  • The amount of pay for the leave (if applicable).

One of the biggest changes to the guidance is that anyone who is classed as an ‘employee’ has the right to time off if: a) a dependant dies; or b) their child is stillborn or dies under the age of 18. The definition of a dependant has been expanded to include: a) spouse, partner or civil partner; b) parent; c) child (under 18); d) a person who lives in their household (not tenants, lodgers or employees); e) a person who would rely on them for help in the event of an accident, illness or injury; or f) a person who relies on them to make care arrangements. Although there is a right to time off in these circumstances, there is no right to paid leave – this can be paid at the discretion of the employer.

In circumstances where there is no legal right to time off and the employer does not offer bereavement leave, the new guidance recommends that employers consider the use of annual leave, sick leave or unpaid leave as alternatives. It is advised that discussions are held between the employer and employee to discuss:

  • What type of bereavement leave is available;
  • How much time off is available; and
  • Whether the leave will be paid or unpaid.

If you would like any advice on the updated guidance, please do contact the employment team to arrange an appointment.

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