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HR Tip - Time off work for funerals

21st Oct 2003
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These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.

Q: How much time should we allow employees to have off work to attend funerals? Should they be paid? Some of our managers are considerably more generous than others and it is causing resentment.

A: The law requires you to allow employees a reasonable amount of time off work without pay to deal with family emergencies such as funerals. Family includes close relatives such as spouse, parent, child, brother and sister, and anyone living in the household as a family member. What is a reasonable amount of time is not specified and has not yet been clarified by case law but is likely to mean one or two days for funeral attendance but a week if the employee has to make the funeral and probate arrangements.

You really should have a company policy to guide managers and I suggest you involve them in drawing it up so that they are working to standards they themselves have set as a group. This might suggest a day off for friend or distant relative, two days for close family and longer if the employee is an executor or is particularly distressed. You may indicate that short absences will be with pay or a proportion of full pay and that longer absences either will be unpaid or be taken as holiday. However you yourselves need to determine these standards.

Managers should be told to apply these standards unless they have a sound reason for acting differently in which case they should either refer to a senior executive or be able to convince their colleagues that they had a valid reason for the variation. That should help guide your managers and avoid resentment among your employees.

(This topic is covered in detail in our Employment Law courses)

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