Bereavement Leave – What Employers Need to Know

Last updated: October 31st, 2023

First published: February 8th 2018
Last updated: October 31st 2023

Supporting employees who have suffered a bereavement can be a challenging issue for employers of all sizes, but in particular, small and medium employers.

It’s important for employers to realise that different people cope with bereavement in different ways.

In managing this sensitive scenario, employers must also balance their duty of care towards their employees with the economic, technical and organisational needs of the business.

No statutory right to bereavement leave

Employees have no statutory entitlement to time off work (paid or unpaid) to grieve the loss of a loved one.

However, it is considered reasonable and advisable best practice for an employer to offer an employee limited paid time-off work to grieve, make funeral arrangements and attend a funeral.

The duration of that paid time-off work often depends on the relationship between the employee and the deceased. In certain circumstances, additional unpaid time-off work may also be offered to an employee.

Bereavement leave policy

It is advisable for employers to have a clause, paragraph or policy in their Employee Handbook in respect of bereavement leave. This policy will set out parameters so that both employer and employee are clear on how to manage any requests for bereavement leave.

This policy ought to state that the company understands the loss of a loved one must be managed in a sensitive and caring manner.

Suggested parameters to be established strictly as a guide in the Policy for paid time-off work for bereaved employees are:

  • Spouse/ Partner/ Child – 1 week’s paid leave;
  • Parent/ Brother/ Sister – 3 day’s paid leave; and
  • Mother-In-Law/ Father-In-Law/ Brother-In-Law/ Sister-In-Law/ Grandparents/ Grandchild/ Uncle/ Aunt – 1 day’s paid leave.

The Policy should state that management have a discretion to offer additional days – whether paid or unpaid – and that this discretion will be applied on a case-by-case basis.

It may also be appropriate to accept any requests for annual leave to allow the employee to grieve.

The above categories are merely guidelines and each employer is free to formulate their own specific parameters.

Where an employee requests bereavement leave following a death not covered in the above categories, such a request should be addressed using management discretion and on a case-by-case basis.

Typically, paid bereavement leave ought not to be offered for the death of pets. However, this would be a matter for the discretion of management.

For expert HR guidance on bereavement leave or any other aspect of Irish employment law, call us today on 01 886 0350

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