Posted on 21st February, 2022

Experts welcome new Acas guidance on supporting bereaved employees

The recent update includes information on leave entitlements for those who have lost children, as well as advice for supporting Covid-related bereavements.

Experts have welcomed an update to Acas’s bereavement guidance to better reflect the rules around leave entitlements for employees who have lost children or experienced a stillbirth.

The new guidance from the government’s arbitration service now outlines the statutory maternity and paternity leave rules for parents who have lost a pregnancy after 24 weeks, and has also been updated to include the parental bereavement leave entitlement introduced in 2020.

Acas’s bereavement guidance also includes new resources for supporting staff who have suffered Covid-related bereavements.

Susan Clews, chief executive of Acas, said: “The death of a loved one is a devastating and life changing experience for any employee. It can impact someone at work immediately as well as long term.

“Our new bereavement advice can help employers handle these difficult situations in a supportive, compassionate and practical way as well as understanding the law in this area.”

Under the current rules, birth mothers who experience a stillbirth – the loss of a pregnancy after 24 weeks – are entitled to up to 52 weeks statutory maternity leave or pay, while the birth father can get up to two weeks statutory paternity leave or pay.

The update also includes guidance on Jack’s Law, named in memory of a child whose mother campaigned on the issue, which entitles parents to two weeks unpaid leave following the death of a child under the age of 18 or a stillbirth after 24 weeks.

Acas now also provides advice for employers on how to support staff who have experienced a miscarriage – defined as a loss of pregnancy before 24 weeks. While there is no bereavement leave entitlement for a miscarriage, the guidance suggests employers still treat it as a bereavement and look to support the employee in the same way they might after a death.

Jill Miller, senior policy adviser for diversity and inclusion at the CIPD, welcomed Acac’s new bereavement advice. “Employees experiencing bereavement need to be treated with compassion and support in the workplace, with an understanding that everyone will experience grief differently,” she said.

Miller added that it was vital for organisations to “properly support those who are experiencing grief and loss by developing policies that offer long-term support” by making employees aware of what policies and support exist, and ensuring line managers are equipped to support bereaved employees.

Acas highlights that anyone classed as an employee has the right to time off after the death of a dependant. This includes a spouse, parent, child, a person who lives in their household or a person who would rely on them for help including an elderly neighbour.

Tracey Taylor-Huckfield, director of people at Sue Ryder, added that all employers should look at how they can best support employees through a bereavement. “A good starting point could be creating a bereavement policy which makes the employer’s position of support clear to its staff and enables conversations about grief to take place,” she said.

Taylor-Huckfield also called for the creation of statutory paid bereavement leave, which she said would “allow people a crucial period of time to start processing their grief”.

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