Time Off for Bereavement by Susannah Butterworth | Uncategorized | The Law House

Time Off for Bereavement by Eilish Adams

By in All Blogs, Family Law, Wills, Trusts & Probate Category on January 15th, 2014

“Everyone grieves in different ways. For some, it could take longer or shorter. I do know it never disappears. An ember still smoulders inside me. Most days, I don’t notice it, but, out of the blue, it’ll flare to life.” ? Maria V. Snyder, Storm Glass

There has been much in the press recently discussing whether or not employees should be entitled to take – and be paid for – bereavement leave.However, the situation with regard to time off work when an employee suffers the loss of a family member remains outdated and miserly.

 As an employee you are entitled to “reasonable time off” but what is reasonable. It’s like saying how long is a piece of string? How much time you can take off following the death will depend on your work contract but mostly this is at the discretion of your employer. Even if they have a policy about “compassionate leave” they will usually allow you to take up to one week off.

Suffering bereavement is one of the most stressful life events you experience. The biggest problem is that most people, if they have never experienced a bereavement before, simply don’t know what they need to do or the when they need to do it. Purely practical matters such as registering the death and arranging and attending a funeral can take at least a week if not longer.

Death in our western culture is viewed as less important than a birth when new parents can take up to one year off work after a child is born or adopted. In our minds the system is unfair. As a grieving parent you most definitely need more than a week to come to terms with the loss.

No one gets over a death in a week whether it was expected or not. The emotional fallout is a major event in your life. If you are not coping very well with the loss of your husband or wife it is additionally hard if you have children. You not only have to cope with the loss of your spouse but help your children come to terms with what is for them a profound loss.If you feel you need more time to come to terms with their bereavement, your only options are to take unpaid leave, use holiday time or be signed off sick by your GP. In our view you need to take the time that is needed and not what the law says. Long term you will be better off emotionally.

Depending on your culture and your faith, it is important to have time off to deal not only with the emotional fallout, but also the practical arrangements. This includes obtaining the death certificate, arranging the funeral and all other matters associated with that, such as arranging readings at the funeral and arranging the wake. Unfortunately, bureaucracy often gets in the way of making these arrangements seamless and there is no doubt stress involved.

At The Law House we understand that dealing with the loss of a loved one is traumatic. Most people have no idea what they need to do or how to go about winding up the affairs of a loved one. What most people don’t realise is that dealing with someone’s affairs is a process and unless there is something extremely urgent to be dealt there is no major rush to deal with all issues at once.

If someone gets in contact with us for advice we calmly say that they need to deal with registering the death and arranging the funeral and for them to take care of themselves and their children. We often advise that they come back to us in a month when the impact of the loss has eased. We take it from there.


If you have recently lost a loved one, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me and I will be more than happy to advise you about the steps you need to take immediately following a death. You can reach me on 0020 8899 6620 or email me at eadams@thelawhouse.com