Sue Ryder has called for statutory bereavement leave of two weeks so that people have the time and space to grieve and says this will bring long-term savings.
The Government should introduce two weeks statutory paid bereavement leave for all UK employees for the loss of a close relative or partner, according to a national bereavement charity.
Currently, in the UK there is no legal requirement for employers to grant bereavement leave, except for parents who have lost a child under 18 years old.
Research by Sue Ryder suggests that, while investing in adequate bereavement leave and support may result in initial short-term costs, it could lead to a significant saving for the UK economy and the Treasury in the long term, through reduced staff absence, higher employee productivity and a lesser reliance on the health and benefits system post-bereavement. As a result, the charity is calling on the Government to introduce a statutory two weeks bereavement leave for the loss of a close relative or partner.
It says the grief that follows a bereavement may include difficult and unexpected emotions, from shock or anger to disbelief, guilt and profound sadness. Intense grief can lead to loss of sleep and appetite, an inability to think clearly and in the most extreme cases, can lead to mental health conditions such as depression, eating disorders, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Sue Ryder says research shows that low-income workers are at higher risk of experiencing persistent grief, not only because of the relatively higher impact of financial losses post-bereavement, but because they face more barriers in accessing appropriate services and information to help them cope with grief.
Heidi Travis, Chief Executive at Sue Ryder, said: “For many people, grief can be debilitating and additional stressors such as work, can feel overwhelming.
“Currently many employers offer three to five days compassionate leave, but lower income workers in less secure jobs often don’t have access to any leave.
“Sue Ryder is calling on the government to introduce two weeks statutory paid bereavement leave when a person is grieving the loss of any close relative or partner. This will allow people a crucial period of time to start processing their grief.
“Not only would this improve how, as a society, we approach an issue that will affect almost all of us, but it would also address the financial impacts of unresolved grief, and its cost to the economy.”
The call for more support for the bereaved, particularly low-income workers, comes as The Living Wage Foundation has announced an increase in the voluntary real living wage to £10.85 an hour in London and £9.50 elsewhere. The Foundation says the new rates will be paid by almost 7,000 employers, giving more than 250,000 UK workers a pay rise. The Living Wage Foundation rate is now 78p an hour more than the Government’s minimum wage for over 25-year-olds and the London level is £2.13 an hour higher.
*Sue Ryder is running a handraiser to raise awareness of the importance of statutory bereavement leave to the government. More information can be found here.