It is to be hoped that most employers would react compassionately to such requests to take time off work and there is limited legal protection for employees in these circumstances.
The Employment Rights Act 1996 sets out that an employee is entitled to be permitted to take a reasonable amount of time off during the employee’s working hours in order to take action which is necessary in consequence of the death of a dependant. What is reasonable depends on the employee’s circumstances. A child is one of the categories of dependant described by the Act.
This right to time off does not include the right to be paid for that time though, even if the period of leave is during working hours. It is therefore a right to unpaid time off.
The right covers things such as time off for making funeral arrangements, attending the funeral of or registering the death of a dependant. Importantly though, it does not cover time to deal with the emotional effects of the bereavement - grieving.
Many thousands of children die each year which mean a great number of parents have to struggle with this profound form of bereavement.
This is the reason that attempts are currently being made to give a legal entitlement to paid leave for bereaved parents who have suffered the death of a child. The current proposal is for two weeks’ pay at the same rate as statutory maternity leave.
Only time will tell if this extra entitlement makes it onto the statute books.