Financial & Legal News

Why Employers should talk about death during Dying Matters Week

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The language around death and how we broach the topic is the focus of this years Dying Matters Awareness Week (May 6th – 12th) - it is something many of our legal teams are all too aware of and something our employment solicitors frequently advise business owner clients on.

“Death, bereavement and how to tackle it as employers can be a minefield.  Above all else communication is important and it pays to have an open and compassionate culture to support staff through grief, caring responsibilities, or any life-limiting illness,” advised Partner and Employment Law Solicitor, Susan Mayall.

“Employers, HR teams and line managers often know quite a lot about their staff’s personal lives and at times of bereavement they need to offer both emotional and practical support,” she added.

Parental Bereavement Leave

Whilst there is no set amount of time off you are legally entitled to after someone has died, many businesses have discretionary policies.  Parental Bereavement Leave does however give time off for the death of a child under 18, or a stillbirth after 24 weeks.

“Normal employment rules still apply to someone who has been bereaved and if they share their sadness with you it’s important to keep in mind that by law an employee doesn’t need to share their bereavement with their colleagues, so confidentiality might be an issue,” said Susan.

Bereavement policies in the workplace

A specific policy covering bereavement as part of the employee handbook and wider workplace policies is a good idea - one which covers time off and pay for bereavement and makes clear:

  • how much time off staff can have
  • how much pay staff are entitled to
  • how managers should respond and provide support after a death

“Grief and mourning practices can depend on religious, cultural or spiritual practices so this is something for employers to bear in mind and a flexible policy is often the best way forward.  Sometimes a flexible phased return may be the best option, or an overall change in responsibilities or duties for a staff member who has been recently bereaved,” she added.

“Death and dying are part of everyday life and it’s a fact for employers that 57% of their staff will have experienced a bereavement in the last five years.  Every day more than 600 people hand in their notice to look after someone yet fewer than one in five managers feels confident supporting someone with a bereavement and so that’s why awareness weeks like this are so very useful.”

Conversations about dying are never easy, every day our Private Client solicitors support families who need to discuss this topic when making a Will, or indeed business owners who need more complex advice around Business Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney.

This year’s theme, ‘The way we talk about Dying Matters’, focuses on the language that we use, and the conversations we all have around death and dying.

How can we help?

At Pearson Solicitors our designated employment lawyers for businesses can offer legal advice on contracts and workplace policies. For further information on our employment legal services contact a member of the team on 0161 785 3500 or email 

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

Written by Susan Mayall


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