In a report published last week, the National Council for Palliative Care called on the government to consider introducing statutory paid bereavement leave for employees.

“Life after death: six steps to improve support in bereavement” found that almost a third of employees who suffered a bereavement in the last five years did not feel that their employer had treated them with compassion. More than half of those surveyed said they would consider leaving their job if their employer did not provide proper support.

The research also found that the overwhelming majority of people agreed that employers should have a compassionate employment policy, including paid bereavement leave and flexible working.

More than four in five people agreed that there should be a legal right to receive paid bereavement leave when someone close to the person in question (such as a child, parent or partner) died. And a similar number of people agreed that providing employees with paid bereavement leave was likely to be beneficial to employers in the long term.

At a minimum, the report urges employers to ensure they have a bereavement policy which sets out the support to which bereaved employees are entitled.

It also recommends that the government commissions a national review of employment practice and bereavement, which explores the feasibility of minimum statutory paid bereavement leave and highlights good practice that employers could learn from. This review should also identify ways of making fitness to work certification and occupational health support work better for bereaved people.

Although employees currently have the right to “reasonable” unpaid time off to deal with the consequences of the death of someone dependent on them, “reasonable” is not defined and there is no right to paid time off.

Iain Birrell from Thompsons Solicitors commented: “It is well established that this sort of issue has a significant impact upon employee motivation and that, where workers feel unfairly treated, they are likely to feel less committed to their organisation and may be less likely to put in discretionary effort.

“Since the workforce’s skills and goodwill are so important to a business’ success, these issues should be given appropriate consideration and it is positive to see this contribution to the debate.”

To read the report, go to: