Q: Am I entitled to paid time off to attend a funeral?
A: This is our summary of what ACAS has to say on the subject of paid time off for funerals, taking it rather wider than just the funeral, which was what we were asked about in this case. Our comments are in italics.
Taking time off for a funeral / bereavement.
After a death, no one wants to have to read the fine print of their employment contract to find out if there is formal provision for compassionate leave. Nor would most wish to have a potentially awkward conversation their manager, to explain who died so as to convince them that a short period – whether half a day or more – of compassionate leave is justified.
Employees are entitled to ‘time off for funerals of dependants’ and other issues. This is reasonable unpaid leave to deal with unforeseen matters and emergencies involving a dependant. This includes arranging or attending a funeral. A ‘dependant’ could be a spouse, partner, child, parent or anyone living in the household. It could also be someone who relies on an employee for their care or for help, such as an elderly neighbour. Plenty of grounds there for dispute as to who is a dependant!
What happens if the person who dies was not a dependant? Many employers have a policy for compassionate leave in their contracts or staff handbooks. Writing paid compassionate leave into a contract can be an important staff benefit. It can improve staff / employer relationships in the long term. (Much better than leaving staff angry and frustrated). Having a formal scheme is easier for managers. They can show the written policy to staff and not be put in the awkward situation of judging each case on its merits. And perhaps accidentally creating confusing precedents and ultimately disputes as other staff think they have been treated less favourably.
Employees cannot expect to be granted time off to attend a funeral automatically. When compassionate leave isn’t granted, employees may have to use their holiday allowance.
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