Compassionate leave


In the unfortunate event that one of your relatives has passed away you will want to know how much time you can take time off school. You will want to check to see if your school has a compassionate leave policy outlining specific details for time off, paid leave and attending funerals.

ACAS explains most people will experience the death of a person close to them during their working lives. Every person will deal with a death differently. It’s important for employers to be:

  • be sensitive to what each person might need at the time
  • consider the person’s physical and emotional wellbeing, including once they’ve returned to work

ACAS notes that during the coronavirus pandemic, employees have the same rights to time off when someone dies.

Compassionate leave: what are my employment rights? 

The GOV.UK website explains that as an employee you are allowed time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependant.

A dependant could be a spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent, or someone who depends on you for care.

ACAS explains that anyone classed as an employee has the right to time off if a dependant dies, including:

  • their partner
  • their parent
  • their child (if under 18)
  • someone else who relied on them

The law does not say how much time can be taken off if a dependant dies. It simply says the amount should be ‘reasonable’. This time off is for dealing with unexpected issues and emergencies involving the dependant, including leave to arrange or attend a funeral.

We have written another article which outlines further details on how to request leave for exceptional circumstances.

Compassionate leave: what should I tell my school?

ACAS explains it’s best to let your employer know as soon as you can if you need time off work. You should try to follow your workplace’s usual process for telling them. If you feel unable to contact them, you could ask someone else to do it for you, for example, a family member or close friend. ACAS explains it’s a good idea to let your employer know:

  • How you’d like to be in contact while you’re off, for example if phone or email is best, and how often you want to be in touch
  • If you want others at work to know, and if they can contact you
  • If you need any information or support from your manager or employer

It’s up to you how much you tell them about the death, and whether you want others at work to know.

It might be difficult to know how long you’ll need off work at first. Keeping in touch with your employer can help:

  • Update your employer
  • Plan your return to work when you’re ready

Compassionate leave: time off for a funeral

ACAS explains that an employee has the right to time off for a funeral if the person who died was a dependant. For example, their partner or parent.

There’s no legal right for this time off to be paid, but some employers might offer pay. If you workplace does not offer paid time off for a funeral, the employee and employer could agree on using:

  • holiday or annual leave
  • unpaid leave

Employers should not discriminate against employees when deciding on time off. For example, not allowing an employee to attend a religious ceremony after a death could be indirect religious discrimination. 

Employers and employees should agree together how an employee takes time off for both religious and non-religious funerals.

Ongoing support and advice

ACAS explains, if you need support at work, it can help to:

  • talk to your manager to see what support or adjustments might be possible
  • use your workplace’s employee assistance programme (EAP), if there’s one available

You can also get help and support from the following organisation:

Dying Matters for help talking about dying, death and bereavement

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
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