Sue Ryder has called on the government to introduce two weeks statutory paid bereavement leave for all UK employees.
The charity provides a range of online bereavement support, including video counselling, an online community forum offering 24-hour peer to peer support and a wide range of advice and resources for people who are grieving or supporting someone through bereavement.
Sue Ryder reported workplace grief costs the UK economy £23bn per year and costs HM Treasury nearly £8bn a year.
7.9 million people in employment (24% of all employees) have reportedly experienced a bereavement in the last 12 months.
Most of the negative economic impact reportedly arises from grieving employees being unable to work at their normal levels of productivity while they deal with the mental, physical, and financial impacts of a bereavement.
Currently, in the UK the charity claimed there is no legal requirement for employers to grant bereavement leave, except for parents who have lost a child under 18 years old.
Sue Ryder’s research suggested that investing in adequate bereavement leave and support may result in initial short-term costs.
However, this 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.
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.”
Sue Ryder highlighted that the security of knowing employees are given paid leave, without concerns of how they are being perceived or possibly penalised by employers, can give people the time and space to come to terms with their loss.
Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth and member of the Work and Pensions Select committee, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has cast a spotlight on the urgent need to better support people who are dealing with grief.
“Introducing a statutory right to two weeks paid bereavement leave would be a significant step forward. This would mean that people who are in the immediate aftermath of a loved one’s death do not need to worry about work and are not put under any pressure to return to work.”
Abrahams added: “I’ve heard too many stories from people who’ve felt obliged to return to work straight after the death of someone close to them, when they simply weren’t ready.
“Introducing this simple measure would be a concrete way that both the government and employers can better support people who are grieving.”