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How to devise and implement a policy on compassionate leave

Author: Lynda Macdonald


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  • Recognise the statutory right of all workers to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work for dependants.
  • Be aware that any compassionate leave granted in relation to an opposite-sex partner should also be granted in relation to a same-sex partner.
  • Make a policy on compassionate leave applicable to all employees rather than differentiating on grounds of grade or status, but consider stipulating a minimum length of service in respect of any paid leave.
  • Define clearly the range of circumstances in which compassionate leave will be granted, and include a list of the family members in respect of whom the right to take leave will apply.
  • Define how much compassionate leave may be granted whilst retaining some discretion and flexibility so as to be able to show consideration to individual employees in times of difficulty.
  • Decide whether compassionate leave should be granted on a paid or unpaid basis, or a combination of both, and if leave is to be paid clarify whether this means only basic pay or whether any allowances to which the employee is normally entitled are included.
  • Take steps such as issuing written management guidelines to ensure that the policy on compassionate leave is applied fairly and consistently, while still allowing flexibility to cater for individuals' needs.
  • Recognise the benefits of granting compassionate leave to employees who genuinely need time off to deal with personal and family problems.