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How to devise and implement a policy on compassionate leave

Author: Lynda Macdonald


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  • Recognise the benefits of granting compassionate leave to employees who need time off to deal with personal and family problems.
  • Understand the statutory right of all workers to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work for dependants.
  • Make a policy on compassionate leave applicable to all employees.
  • Include in the policy a list of the family members and others in respect of whom the right to take leave will apply.
  • Define clearly the range of circumstances in which compassionate leave will be granted.
  • Specify the procedure that employees should follow to request compassionate leave.
  • Set out how much compassionate leave may be granted, while retaining some discretion and flexibility 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.
  • 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.