Government urged to consider statutory paid leave for bereaved staff

CIPD: Half of workers would leave an employer that failed to support them after a loss. Charity body the National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC) has urged the government to consider introducing statutory paid leave for bereaved employees. The call comes as an NCPC survey of 4,038 people, conducted by ComRes, revealed that 56 per cent of workers would consider leaving an employer that failed to support them after the death of someone close.

Four-fifths of survey respondents agreed that employers should be legally required to offer paid leave following the death of a close relative, for example a child, parent or partner. In addition, 87 per cent said all employers should have a compassionate employment policy including flexible working as well as paid bereavement leave.

Of the respondents who had suffered the loss of a loved one in the past five years, a third told the survey that their employer had not treated them with compassion. Currently, workers do not have the legal right to paid leave for bereavement but they can take ‘reasonable’ unpaid leave to organise a funeral or make other practical arrangements related to the death.

The survey findings are outlined in the NCPC’s report ‘Life After Death’, published in partnership with the Dying Matters Coalition, which works to highlight the importance of talking more openly about death and bereavement.

In addition, the Dying Matters Coalition has launched the ‘Compassionate employers’ campaign to help employers who want to improve their approach to end of life issues, including training for managers and staff.

“The costs of bereavement are too great to ignore, both for individuals and for society,” said Eve Richardson chief executive of NCPC and the Dying Matters Coalition. “Employers have an important role to play by being compassionate and having a bereavement policy in place. They should also ensure that they support their managers so that they are confident in having sensitive discussions about end of life issues with their staff. It is also often the little things that matter and help make a difference, such as kind words from a manager or a card to say we are thinking of you. With the number of people dying each year set to increase there’s never been a more important time to get bereavement support right, both in the workplace and throughout society.”

Dawn Chaplin, co-founder of the National Bereavement Alliance commented: “Learning to live with the loss of someone close is one of the most painful experiences we can encounter, and society’s response often makes it even harder. There’s an urgent need to improve access to bereavement services, and to ensure that people who have been bereaved are not ignored or left isolated.”

Lucy Herd, founder of Jack’s Rainbow, who has been campaigning for the government to review statutory bereavement leave since the death of her young son Jack in 2010, said: “Much more must be done to provide support to people who have been bereaved. It’s completely unrealistic to expect people who have lost someone close to them to immediately go back to work and carry on as normal.”

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