During August 2011, I suffered the loss of my Mother and then six months later in 2012 the loss of my youngest sister. On both occasions, my Employer was very sympathetic, compassionate and allowed me a generous amount of time of work with no loss of pay.
I consider myself lucky. This is because I am acutely aware of other friends and family who have been forced to take between 1 and three days paid time off work or, in one case that I know in relation to a close family member, any time off beyond one day must be taken from your annual holidays
Campaigners are now urging the Government to give employees the legal right to paid leave if they have suffered a family bereavement, amid growing public support for the move.
A recent poll from Survation reveals that 71% of respondents think that there should be a national guaranteed minimum entitlement to bereavement leave for close family members. Sixty three per cent also think it is unfair that bereavement leave can be unpaid. The poll, commissioned by the Change Bereavement Leave campaign founded by Lucy Herd, also reveals a general lack of knowledge on the issue.
While many employers exercise discretion when a close relative dies, only 15% correctly understood that there is no entitlement to paid bereavement leave.
Damian Lyons Lowe, Chief Executive of Survation said: “Our polling shows that only 15% of the public are aware of the current lack of any guaranteed period of bereavement leave, whilst 31% wrongly believe there to be at least four days of statutory bereavement leave.”
Lucy Herd, who lost her toddler son in 2010, has recently also brought this “inhuman anomaly” to the attention of Parliament. She is requesting four weeks’ paid bereavement leave for parents mourning the loss of a child.
At Prime Minister’s Questions recently, David Cameron was asked by Tom Harris MP if he would consider amending the Employment Rights Act 1996 to “give British parents the legal right and time to grieve.” The Prime Minister agreed to look at the current situation.
TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Most people will be surprised to learn that unless they have an understanding employer, they may not be able to take much time off work following a death in the family, and if they are, any compassionate leave will almost certainly be unpaid.”