The majority of employers support the provision of paid bereavement to any employee who has lost a close family member, a CIPD poll has found, as MPs prepare to hear a proposal that could expand the existing statutory provisions.
A survey of 1,006 HR professionals and decision-makers, conducted by YouGov for the CIPD, revealed that three-quarters (75 per cent) of employers support allowing employees experiencing any close family bereavement to take paid time off.
It also found that four in five (80 per cent) employers already provide paid bereavement leave for close family members, despite there being no statutory obligation for them to do so.
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The findings come as Parliament prepares for the second reading of a Bill, introduced by SNP MP Patricia Gibson, which would see the limited existing statutory bereavement leave entitlement extended to more people.
Under current legislation, bereaved parents are entitled to two weeks’ paid leave following the death of a child under the age of 18. The provision, called ‘Jack’s Law’ in memory of the child whose mother campaigned on the issue, became the first statutory provision of bereavement leave in the UK when it came into force in 2020.
However, at the moment there is no statutory right to bereavement leave for any other individuals who lose a close family member or partner.
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The proposal is being supported by the CIPD, which also called on employers to consider other ways they can support employees who have suffered a bereavement.
Claire McCartney, senior policy adviser for resourcing and inclusion at the CIPD, warned that it would be “highly unlikely” staff experiencing the loss of a close family member would be able to perform well at work if they are forced to return too quickly.
She added that bereavement was often an ongoing process for individuals, and urged organisations to consider offering longer-term flexibility and a phased return to work or flexible working beyond two weeks’ leave.
“Practical considerations are always concerns for business but this isn't a ‘nice to have’, it is essential,” she said.
According to the CIPD survey, the most common length of paid bereavement leave among firms was between three and five days (40 per cent), followed by one to two days (14 per cent).
Just one in 10 firms (12 per cent) offer two weeks of paid leave.
Commenting on the data, Renée Clarke, director of Work Well Hub, said it was “vitally important” to have a supportive working environment that provided employees time to accept and grieve.
“Everyone deals with death differently; some people are faced with shock and numbness while others have feelings of guilt or anger, and these emotions can often run over into the workplace,” she explained.
Ian Moore, managing director of Lodge Court, added that to maintain a happy and motivated workforce, firms need to show employees that they have support “through the good times, as well as the bad”.
“By giving staff efficient time to grieve… without the worry that it will negatively affect their job or financial situation, you can help ensure a speedier and more effective return to work,” he said.
Yesterday (2 March), Gibson and the CIPD co-hosted an event in Parliament where 32 MPs pledged their support for her Bill, which will be debated on 18 March.
The event was attended by Lucy Herd, Jack’s mother and founder of Jack’s Rainbow, who said seeing MPs pledge their support was a “joyous moment”.
“My job always was about extending Jack’s Law for everybody so when I started this nearly 12 years ago, it was for everybody who is bereaved to be able to take time off,” she said.
“We've forgotten about compassion and I think, if you've put so much money into your employees, why not give them that little bit of help and support to get them back into business?” Herd added.