Is your compassionate leave policy really compassionate at all?

Toni Robinson at Nucleus HR discusses issues with compassionate leave and what's expected of employers

We were deeply saddened to hear of the devastating, disastrous helicopter accident that resulted in the deaths of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Eric Swaffer, Izabela Roza Lechowicz, Nursara Suknamai, and Kaveporn Punpare. And whilst this is a sensitive discussion, we would like to bring to light the issue of compassionate leave.

Where is the obligation on the employers at LCFC now? Do they have grief counsellors? What bereavement leave should they give? What do they have to do? And the answer, technically, is nothing. Legally, nothing. Their company handbook might state what’s reasonable and what’s standard, but they do not have to go beyond this and there is nothing in law that requires employers to offer a minimum amount of compassionate leave.

However, consistent practice is one days leave to attend the funeral for the death of a family member such as an aunt or uncle. For a mum, dad or sibling, typically three days are normally given. If it’s a child, three days is still the norm. Personally, if one of our children died, we guarantee you would not see most of us for at least a month.

Some people may handle grief by getting back into the swing of things but everyone is different. So, we would advise that it’s essential to be sensitive and play it by ear with individual merit and circumstance. This doesn’t mean to say you must pay an employee for a month of leave but perhaps let them take annual leave if they want to go beyond what your policy says. Or, in normal circumstances, expect a sickness certificate for grief related depression.

Maybe it’s time to review your policy to be in line with cultural norms?

Sometimes it can be difficult to know where to draw the line. For instance, we had a client last week who said a lady took two days off from work because the dog in Emmerdale died. His lawyer told him there was no way to oppose this as she was psychologically damaged. But this is not the way to run a business. As a business owner you have the right to manage your staff.

My point is, you have to start asking what’s morally right of you as an employer.

Some employers might want to take complete control of the situation and give the bare minimum amount of time to grieve. But every person has 10 per cent more in them that they are prepared to give above and beyond what’s asked of them. So, if you allow them to take an extra day, in our experience, you’ll get that back 10 times over because they will appreciate, respect, and do right by you.

We hope business owners can take after LCFC and show their employees empathy and compassion in times of need, sadness, and grief.

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