How to handle compassionate leave
How to handle compassionate leave
Posted by Stuart Falconer • September 28, 2021

There is no fixed amount of compassionate (or bereavement) leave set by law for employees. Instead, you are allowed a reasonable amount of time off dependent on the circumstances. As an employer, it’s up to you to decide what would be a reasonable amount of time off to give to an employee who has suffered the loss of a loved one or who needs to care for a dependant. This short blog post explains how to handle compassionate leave sensitively.

Be empathetic

First, you must react to a request with empathy. If an employee has lost a family member and is grieving, try to understand what they are going through. We all have families and we would all be devastated to lose a loved one. How would you would want to be treated in the same situation? I’d like to think we would all receive kindness and compassion. That’s what you need to offer your employees. Then you can discuss what an appropriate amount of compassionate leave would be.

Forget the impact it has on work

Work should become irrelevant when discussing compassionate leave. The wellbeing of your employee is the priority. If they express concern about cover for their work, reassure them that they don’t need to worry. It’s not for them to think about, it’s your responsibility to manage it.

Is compassionate leave paid?

It isn’t a requirement for you to pay your employees – it is down to your discretion. It is a good idea to have a policy in place on how to handle compassionate leave requests and pay. In addition, this can answer any questions employees might have.

It’s as simple as that

Keep the above at the forefront of your mind and you can’t go far wrong. Where you will go wrong is if you don’t have an open conversation with your employee or agree an appropriate period of leave. Give your employee the space they need. At the end of the leave, it is important to conduct a return to work interview. Have a conversation about whether your employee is indeed ready to return and ask what support, if any, they might need.

We’re here to help

Need advice on how to handle compassionate leave or help creating a policy? Feel free to email me at or call for an informal chat: 0345 095 0139.