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21 December 2022 | HR & Employment

Compassionate Leave Entitlement

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This Insight is #4 in our Employment Handbook series, keep an eye out for more.

Understanding Compassionate Leave Entitlement as an Employer and Employee

What is Compassionate Leave?

Compassionate leave is when an employee takes time off work in order to deal with a difficult situation in their personal life. This could include:

  • Death of a close family member
  • Serious illness of a relative or dependant
  • Another type of emergency related to childcare or dependants

Employers must give their employees a reasonable amount of time off to provide assistance to, care for or make arrangements in respect of dependants. 

Employers can top-up the statutory situation and give their employees ‘compassionate leave’ if they wish.  Many employers give a period of leave in the event that a close relative of the employee dies or becomes critically ill.

What is a Dependant?

A dependant in this case is limited to certain close members of the employee’s family such as:

  • the employee’s spouse
  • civil partner
  • parent
  • child
  • someone who lives with the employee or who reasonably relies on the employee for assistance.

What is Bereavement Leave?

Employers must also give their employees up to two weeks’ leave if they lose a child who is under 18 years old and pay them bereavement pay for the period.

Do you get Paid for Compassionate Leave?

Compassionate leave is typically unpaid, but employers can choose to pay the employee for part or all of the compassionate leave they take, or they can let the employee take the leave unpaid.  It’s common for the employer to limit the time off to a few days in each holiday leave year, and for them to pay the employee when they’re off. 

Arranging Compassionate Leave

If some sort of emergency occurs, then it may not be possible for the employee to let their employer know that they’ll not be in.  So, the policy should explain that the employee will ideally request the leave in advance, but if they’re not able to do that, then they need to notify their employer as soon as they can.

It’s up to you whether you want to give your employees the right to take compassionate leave.  If you do, then you should have a Compassionate Leave Policy, which sets out the employee’s rights, what they need to do take the leave and whether they’ll get paid for part or all of the time they take.

Adverse Weather and Travel Disruption Policy

You’ll need to make your own plan and set it out in an Adverse Weather and Travel Disruption Policy. 

As a matter of law, employers must provide employees with employment contracts that cover the key terms of their employment relationship. However, it is also good practice to have non-contractual policies and procedures in place, such as a employee handbook. This can sit alongside contracts of employment to set out how employees are expected to act and can help prevent or resolve disputes between employees and employers.

Your responsibility as an Employer

As a matter of law employers must give employees employment contracts which cover the key terms of the employment relationship, but the contract won’t cover all of the policies, procedures and expectations for the relationship between a business and the people within it. A employee handbook can include information for all team members, including employees, workers, apprentices and agency staff. Not only can a employee handbook bring together useful guidance for everyone on the culture, values and expectations the business as but it will often be a resource that can save a dispute from arising or provide the best framework for resolving a dispute. The non-contractual policies and procedures that can be included in a employee handbook will sit alongside contracts of employment to set out how employees are expected to act and how the employer will deal with certain situations.

Putting all the policies and procedures together in one place that is accessible to everyone working in a business is good practice and can provide an invaluable framework for reference on all of the HR issues to cover. If any grievance or dispute arises, having a policy or procedure to refer to and follow can help prevent the situation escalating. If the worst occurs and a claim comes before a tribunal, being able to show the policies and procedures that were followed can make a huge difference to the outcome.

Compassionate leave can be a sensitive subject, its worth getting advice from experts like our Employment Law team. Get in touch if you’d like some guidance on Compassionate Leave policies or and other Employee Handbook content on 0330 912 8338.

This article and the policy are provided for general information purposes only and you should take specialist advice in relation to specific circumstances. Whilst we endeavour to ensure that what we say is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy, and Atkins Dellow LLP does not accept any liability for error or omission.

© Atkins Dellow LLP 2022

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Please note this article is provided for general information purposes only to clients and friends of Atkins Dellow LLP. It is not intended to impart legal advice on any matter. Specialist advice should be taken in relation to specific circumstances. Whilst we endeavour to ensure that the information in this article is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy, and Atkins Dellow LLP does not accept any liability for error or omission.

© Atkins Dellow LLP 2022

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