A coalition of MPs, business leaders and charities called for this measure in the face of the rising death toll from Covid-19.
So far, the government has been reluctant to introduce legal bereavement leave, although it has done so for parents who lose a child.
But Carl Ennis, the UK boss of engineering giant Siemens, said the coronavirus pandemic has shown that “we need to take a more empathetic and holistic approach to grief.”
Ministers argued that extending entitlements to paid bereavement leave would come at a significant cost to public funds and place an additional burden on employers at a time when many are struggling.
However, economic research by the bereavement charity Sue Ryder has suggested that the heartache experienced by employees who have lost a loved one costs the UK economy £ 23 billion a year and hits the Treasury by nearly £ 8 billion a year through reduced tax revenue and increased use. NHS resources and social services.
The charity’s chief executive, Heidi Travis, said it was not appropriate for people to rely on annual leave or unpaid time off to cope following a death.
She said, “Mourning is not a holiday. In addition, it is often the lower paid people and those in less secure jobs who are unable to take time off to start dealing with their pain – they may not have the option of flexible work, cannot asking for unpaid sick leave is not a viable alternative.
“The coronavirus has already caused an increase in mourning across the UK, devastating thousands of families.
“In this time of national crisis, it is essential to take a more compassionate approach to bereavement leave.”
The coalition, which includes MPs and representatives from Hospice UK, Cruse Bereavement Care and the Royal College of Physicians, has written to Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to call for a change in policy.
Siemens boss Mr Ennis, who is part of the coalition, said: “As the government seeks to ‘build back better’, we believe that the introduction of statutory bereavement leave for an immediate family member or a partner is a clear example of a bold, compassionate and caring commitment. to UK workers, especially after the devastating year we had in 2020. ”
Debbie Abrahams, Labor member of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, said the pandemic had “highlighted the urgent need to better support people who are grieving.”
A government spokesperson said: “Family bereavement is an extremely personal and difficult issue that people deal with in different ways.
“We are the first country in the world to establish a right to leave specifically for the loss of a child and we urge employers to show compassion and flexibility to employees facing the ordeal of loss of a child. a partner or close family member. ”