North Ayrshire and Arran MP, Patricia Gibson, is calling on ministers to back her proposal for grieving workers to be given a statutory fortnight off after the death of a close family member or partner.

In March, MPs approved regulations giving all employees a right to a minimum of two weeks off work in the event of their child’s death or stillbirth regardless of how long they had worked for their employer.

SNP backbencher Patricia Gibson, when proposing her new Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill on Tuesday, praised colleagues for the change made three months ago but said it was time to go further in terms of support for bereaved staff.

The MP said it was “unfair” for compassionate leave to be at the “discretion” of bosses and called for two weeks of paid financial support for those grieving.

Ms. Gibson said that “potentially thousands” of employees do not take time off for fear of losing their job.

“This Bill is timely seeing as the global health pandemic, which has touched us all in various ways, has sharply reminded us of the fragility of life and the profound and cruelly random nature of loss and bereavement,” she said.

“Relying on employer discretion with regard to time off for employees following a profound event like a bereavement is simply unfair.”

Ms. Gibson said the UK had suffered bereavement “on a distressing scale” since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

She said personal losses during the crisis had had a significant impact on the workforce, with 7.9 million people – 24 per cent of all employees – experiencing the death of a loved one in the past 12 months.

“The impact of grief on society is huge and must no longer be left to the discretion of employers to manage in the workplace,” the MP said.

Ms. Gibson said that, while many employers were supportive to their employees after the passing of a close relative, “some are not as supportive as they could be”.

She continued: “Sometimes those who are grieving are pressured to return to work when they are still in the midst of the initial shock and trauma of loss.

“Without any statutory rights for employees to paid bereavement leave, the time and space to grieve for too many people are determined by the goodwill of their employer – that cannot be right and is counterproductive in a number of ways.

“Typically UK employers offer three to five days compassionate leave for the death of a close relative but the discretionary nature of this leave means that potentially thousands of employees are unable to take leave, without feeling that it would undermine their job security.

“In addition, we know that those in less well-paid jobs are far less likely to receive any discretionary time off with pay when suffering a bereavement or have any compassionate leave at all, and that is grossly unfair.”

She also argued that, while there was a cost to backing the legislation, there was also a financial impact on the Treasury by doing nothing, with workers likely to be less productive if they return to their job too soon after a death, with some even quitting their position all together.

She quoted research from charity Sue Ryder suggesting that workplace grief costs the UK £23 billion per year.

The second reading of the Bill will be on October 29 but the proposal is unlikely to become law without the backing of the Government.