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Bereavement leave

(19 Posts)
grannyactivist Wed 20-Mar-13 11:08:01

A young acquaintance of mine is working full time, has two children in primary school and a husband who is terminally ill. Because she works for an organisation that offers only five days compassionate leave annually she has been using her holiday leave to accompany her husband to hospital and for residential treatments. She is trying to save as much leave as possible because she knows there will be a lot of practical arrangements to be made when her husband dies and because she wants to be available to spend some time with the children afterwards. At the same time, she would like to make the most of the time they have left as a family and use a few days during the Easter holidays to be together. It's heartbreaking watching her struggle and knowing that her life would be made so much easier if 'bereavement leave' was available. sad
This article suggests that bereavement leave should be on a par with statutory maternity/paternity leave. What do you think?

Lilygran Wed 20-Mar-13 12:02:16

Yes, I do think there should be statutory bereavement leave. There was a very moving story on Woman's Hour, yesterday, I believe, about this. One father was working abroad and was allowed five days leave when his child died, 'one day of which had to be the funeral'. Suppose it's a sudden death and there has to be a postmortem? It took him 48 hours to get home. Yes, I do think there should be statutory leave. The woman being interviewed said some people take sick leave - not surprising - and she made the point that people who have just lost a close relative might not be fit to work, especially if it involves driving or machinery.

whenim64 Wed 20-Mar-13 12:30:12

Yes, I agree there should be statutory bereavement or compassionate leave. When I was working, I could use my discretion with staff and would regard the period between the death and the funeral as compassionate leave, then any additional time was to be taken as sick leave, unless there was quite a lot of time needed and it had to come from annual leave or even be taken as unpaid leave. That left quite a lot of room for flexibility, but it all depended on the manager's discretion and some employees were treated less fairly.

The policy simply said that compassionate leave could usually be about 5 days and the manager would use their discretion regarding additional days needed, in consultation with HR and the chief officer (I avoided that where possible - they never knew or cared about the bereaved employee). That doesn't give the employee much power when circumstances are unusual, such as death overseas, traumatic and delayed funeral plans, or time needed with children.

When longer time was needed, I used to find myself doing retrospective self-cert sickness absence reports to cover the days immediately surrounding the death, then start the five days of compassionate leave on the funeral day, and advise the employee to see their GP for sick leave if they needed more time, especially when they had young children and needed their annual leave to cover school hols.

Eloethan Wed 20-Mar-13 13:31:30

grannyactivist What a terrible struggle for your friend. Do you think her employer might have some discretion to allow more compassionate leave? I wonder if they are fully aware of the situation.

Lilygran I heard that on Woman's Hour too - it was very sad. I admired her for campaigning on behalf of other people.

Cagsy Wed 20-Mar-13 14:26:39

It's really hard to hear of such a difficult situation and employer's should be as flexible as they possibly can. It may be easier for larger organisations to cover for missing staff, small businesses would really struggle I think.
What really shocks me is how many people don't get any paid sick leave, we really have gone backwards I think. My oldest son has worked for the same company for 9 years and gets none, fortunately he's healthy but anything can happen - accident, illness and with his second child due in the next few weeks how would they even pay their rent on SSP?

JessM Wed 20-Mar-13 15:17:00

That is really sad. If employers were all compassionate it would not be a problem would it. But only some of them are. I'm sure she could negotiate unpaid leave but she probably needs the money. Are the employers fully aware because some would find a way to help?
I have seen bereavement leave abused when a colleague took a full five days paid leave entitlement when his aunt's husband or his wife's uncle or someone like that died because "he was the only man in the family so he had to organise the funeral" . Which is the problem with having a definite amount to which people are entitled. Some people need a half day to attend their uncle's funeral whereas someone losing their partner would need rather more than a week wouldn't they.

grannyactivist Wed 20-Mar-13 15:17:08

In the case of my acquaintance her boss has been as flexible as he is able to be, but is constrained by being in a large organisation with HR rules which must be seen to be applied 'fairly'. However, her colleagues have found inventive ways to help her out as much as possible. If she knew she could get two weeks compassionate leave when her husband dies, then she would use some of her holiday entitlement at Easter.

gracesmum Wed 20-Mar-13 15:52:28

What a very sad situation compounded by bureaucracy. That should be the least of her worries, poor woman.

Nelliemoser Wed 20-Mar-13 16:02:42

That is so difficult. When my husband was seriously ill 3 yrs ago I just took sick leave with stress which was not faked.

Similarly in 2002 when both parents were in hospital in different places from February. My dad died in April and my mum was immediately readmitted to hospital. She died in the June. I had still been working but running around on adrenaline from mid February until my dad died and I was just exhausted.

Fortunately I had many years of very good sickness record at work and a sympathetic boss.

I know it depends on the size of the business how easily they could manage without her for a while but if the poor woman gets exhausted and totally stressed she will not be able to give of her best if torn between commitments and may eventually be off sick more in the long term.

FlicketyB Wed 20-Mar-13 16:17:33

I thought everybody was entitled to a certain minimum of sick leave. If you do not get paid by your employer I thought you could claim statutory sick leave, or whatever it is now called.

DD's employer gives paid sick leave for two months, everyday of which she needed after a bad road accident. Her employer also gave her a lot of support and help getting back to work. As a result she was got back to working normal hours, although to a restricted work schedule, much faster than anyone expected and within a year was working normally.

Her employer gallantly attributed this to her determination and effort but as she says, she could not possibly have done it if her employer itself hadn't been so willing to do all it could to help her return to work. It was a win win situation for both, her employer had her back and working within the shortest time possible and she managed to get back to work a few days before her paid sick leave expired so didn't need to deal with a very reduced income and claiming benefit.

JessM Wed 20-Mar-13 16:31:02

Her doctor will, I have no doubt, sign her off on "stress" at any time she asks. They do it all the time. For much less good reasons.

Eloethan Wed 20-Mar-13 22:20:08

FlicketyB I think it works that if your employer doesn't have a sick pay scheme, you get around £80 a week statutory sick pay but only after four continuous working days. I think you have to be earning at least that amount to actually get statutory sick pay.

The husband of someone I knew at work owned a business with his brother and they wouldn't pay sick pay to staff. She seemed to think that was OK but I used to think how frightened you would be of getting ill if you worked somewhere like that.

glassortwo Wed 20-Mar-13 22:32:21

Its usually the bigger companies that run a sickness package, smaller companies cant afford it and it falls to SSP, which is not much to live on.

FlicketyB Thu 21-Mar-13 08:32:59

The low rate of SSP was what worried us after the initial worries and panics of DD's accident, as the hospital said she could be unable to work for six months. She lives alone and has a mortgage to pay and a house to run.

What saved her was an employer prepared to go to great lengths to help her get back to work. She wanted to return to work but found it difficult to get in, she couldn't drive and she had been told not to use public transport as her arm was still very fragile, she did use taxis for a few days but the cost was astronomic. Fortunately her work could be done at home if the specialised equipment she needed was installed. This usually took three months as it had to be specially ordered. Her employer moved heaven and earth and got most of the kit up and working in two days and limited her to shorter shifts day time only for several months until she was able gradually to work normally.

The point of all this is if companies offer employees sick pay and work constructively to get them back to work it is much better for both the company and employee. DD's employer had spent a lot of money over several years training her to do a highly specialist job, which she is very good at. She was able to get back to work within two months of a serious accident instead of the six suggested by the hospital because of their positive attitude. It was good for her and good for her employer.

Jadey Fri 22-Mar-13 00:38:44

grannyact Could she use some of her holiday entitlement. Poor lady, how sad is that sad I think it is good that she knows you, because you have a heart the size of England and will help her if you can you can x

goldengirl Fri 22-Mar-13 11:24:04

How awful. I'm an employer and like to think our company supports bereaved staff - we certainly allow them paid time off to sort things out and attend the funeral and to date noone has abused this.

I would imagine she could take unpaid leave for a short while. She may also be able to arrange to come in to work on a part time basis in view of the circumstances. I would imagine it depends on the type of work she is doing and whether there is appropriate cover. Even so the circumstances are incredibly sad and she needs support. We spend so much time at work that I personally feel a little understanding won't come amiss and a good employee is well worth hanging on to.

annodomini Fri 22-Mar-13 12:43:37

My boss was wonderful when my father died. It was very sudden and I was shattered. I needed time off after the funeral because the house had to be cleared as quickly as possible which involved me hiring a Transit and doing a bit of removal work - this was 24 years ago when I was younger and fitter. Strangely enough, the same boss took very little time off when his mother died not much later.

grannyactivist Fri 22-Mar-13 17:27:00

The woman in question is getting as much help from her employer and the other employees as it's possible and she's using her holiday entitlement as carefully as she can; the point is not just this one particular situation, but that it's being replicated up and down the country. People are struggling to cope with a bereavement, but are only entitled to a very limited amount of 'compassionate' leave. Surely the government could make some sort of statutory provision along the same lines as maternity/paternity leave. Although I know it would be hard on small businesses and will need to be carefully policed so that every workshy Johnny or Jany doesn't take advantage.

sunflowersuffolk Fri 22-Mar-13 21:23:13

They were talking about this on the Jeremy Vine programme today, and one poor man rang up. His wife had died at about 12 midnight, and the employer (he was a contractor) expected him in the very next morning - and he went in - because he didn't dare lose the job as well. He had children of 5 and 7, and his Mother came to look after the children.

After that first day, his fellow contractors unofficially said take the time off, we will log you in and out and cover for your doing your work. How can anyone be so unfeeling. There are no rights in these circumstances. They also had that awful Katie from the Apprentice on, being very hard hearted and unsympathetic as you might expect.

I understand for a small business it would not be easy to cope, but it isn't exactly an every day occurrence.