COVID-19 deaths prompt call for two weeks' paid bereavement leave

13 January 2021, 01:06 | Updated: 13 January 2021, 05:48

Britons should be entitled to two weeks' paid bereavement leave following the death of a partner or close relative, campaigners say.

The government is facing calls to introduce statutory bereavement leave for grieving employees amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 83,000 people in the UK so far.

A group of MPs, business owners and charities is calling on ministers for "a more compassionate approach" and say annual leave is "not appropriate" in cases of bereavement.

Currently workers are only entitled to paid leave if they lose a child.

While the government claims the change would come at too much of a cost at a time when COVID-19 is already crippling the economy, bereavement charity Sue Ryder says grief among employees already costs £23 billion a year in reduced tax revenues and use of NHS resources.

The charity's chief executive Heidi Travis said: "Bereavement is not a holiday.

"Moreover, it is often the lower paid and those in less secure employment who are unable to take time off to start processing their pain - they may not have the option of flexible working, cannot call in sick and unpaid leave is not a viable alternative.

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"Coronavirus has already led to an increase in bereavement across the UK, devastating thousands of families.

"At this time of national crisis, introducing a more compassionate approach to bereavement leave is paramount."

The group calling for the change also includes the charities Hospice UK and Cruse Bereavement Care, as well as the Royal College of Physicians, business leaders and senior MPs.

Carl Ennis is the UK head of engineering firm Siemens and is also part of the coalition.

"As the government looks to 'build back better', we believe that introducing statutory bereavement leave for an immediate family member or partner is a clear example of a bold, compassionate and caring commitment to UK workers, particularly after the devastating year we had in 2020," he said.

A government spokeswoman said: "Family bereavement is an extremely personal and difficult issue which people deal with in different ways.

"We are the first country in the world to have introduced a right to time off specifically for the loss of a child and we urge employers to also display compassion and flexibility towards employees facing the ordeal of losing a partner or close family member."