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ACAS (the Government’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service)  has recently launched guidance on how to manage bereavement compassionately. The guidance runs to some 24 pages and should form an invaluable source of reference for employers in adopting best practice. We review the guidance here.

The guidance is very comprehensive, covering issues such as how the effect on an employee may have implications for them in carrying out their duties, how best to communicate with a bereaved employee, and the longer term implications such as possible increased levels of sickness absence.

Grief affects us all in different ways and to different extents and the question of consistency frequently arises. It is re-assuring to see ACAS advocating that bereavement should be considered on a cases by case basis.

We are frequently asked how many paid days it is reasonable to allow. We suggest two, but ACAS quotes the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in suggesting that “most employees are given five paid days to deal with emergencies”. Micro-businesses, or even small employers, may feel they cannot afford to be that generous, nor do they need to be in relation to payments.

The ACAS guidance covers a variety of bereavement scenarios including, children, colleagues, service users (in the care sector) as well as parents as baby boomers enter the retirement era. Salient in this advice is the different manner in which each type of bereavement might be treated. Irrespective of the number of days that may be paid (where we suggest consistency may be important) the guidance outlines many other considerations that an employer may make so as to treat an employee as an individual with particular needs and particular circumstances.

Also covered are legal considerations, such as religion, that may need to be taken into account as are the implications of possible bullying or harassment that may take place unintentionally, and the provisions of the Employment Rights Act, the Equality Act and the Data Protection Act.

We shall be using this detailed guidance to answer questions from employers in the future. You can see our earlier discussion here and the ACAS guidance can be downloaded here