Call for paid bereavement leave rights for UK workers

The Government is being urged to make it a legal right for bereaved workers to obtain paid leave.

As well as being backed by some MPs and the TUC union group, a poll of 1,500 members of the public showed 70% would support a national guaranteed minimum pay rate.

The current situation whereby workers are not entitled to paid leave in the occurrence of a death of a close family member has been described as an "injustice".

The issue was highlighted by Labour MP Tom Harris during a session in the Commons. He pointed out that those particularly affected could be parents who lose a child, saying many feel they have no option but to go back to work too early as they have no right to time away from work.

"Most people are unaware that there is currently no right to bereavement leave for parents. This is an injustice that Parliament needs to address," he said.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady echoed the need for employer sympathy for bereaved parents, adding: "Thinking about how they might cope following the death of a close family member is clearly not something many of us want to spend much time contemplating.

"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.

"Coping with the sudden loss of a loved one is traumatic enough without having to worry about work too. The Government should do the right thing and give people a legal right to paid time away from their jobs after someone close to them has died.

"Employers can also help ease the upset of their bereaved employees a little by being more generous depending on someone's individual circumstances - for example a parent coping with the sudden loss of a child is likely to need much more time off work."

The survey, commissioned by the Change Bereavement Leave campaign, further revealed that two-thirds feel unpaid bereavement leave is unfair.

Copyright Press Association 2013