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17 September 2014

New ACAS guidance on bereavement

ACAS has published a new good practice guide on managing bereavement in the workplace, including a model bereavement policy.

The Government decided not to include a statutory right to bereavement leave during the progress of the Children and Families Act 2014 through Parliament, on the basis that it was not “feasible” to legislate for such leave and preferring the more flexible approach of non-statutory guidance.

The new guidance has been developed by ACAS in conjunction with Cruse Bereavement Care and other organisations.

It sets out the legal position in relation to bereavement, including an employee’s entitlement to take a “reasonable” period of unpaid leave following a bereavement under the existing provisions permitting time off for dependants (section 57(A) Employment Rights Act 1996).

The guide also provides practical guidance on managing bereavement in the workplace, including how to deal with the immediate aftermath on being notified of a bereavement, communicating with the employee affected and how to disseminate the information in a sensitive manner.

ACAS recommends that whilst not a legal requirement, having a clear written policy in place and providing an entitlement to a defined period of paid leave in the event of the death of close family members will help an employee to feel supported following a bereavement, and may make it easier for them to return to work.  A short model policy is included at the end of the guide.

The guide also suggests training for managers and HR staff in having effective and compassionate conversations with bereaved colleagues.

ACAS emphasises the fact that bereavement affects individuals very differently and it encourages employers to take a flexible approach in relation to the individual taking additional time off, and considering adjusting their duties and hours of work once the employee is able to return.

A copy of the good practice guide is available on the ACAS website.