Informing Your Boss About Death or Terminal Illness of a Loved One

This is part 2 of our Dying Matters 2024  content, supporting the great work that Hospice UK do. 

The four sections in this guide are:

1.    Coping with overwhelming emotions at work
2.    Informing your boss or manager about the death or terminal diagnosis of your loved one (you are here)
3.    Talking with coworkers about death or terminal illness of a loved one
4.    Bereavement leave provisions in the UK 

Tips for reading these guides:

-    Take a break if you feel overwhelmed and come back to the guide later.
-    The advice shown here are merely suggestions that you can choose to implement as you see fit. There is no right or wrong way to do things, only what feels right to you. 
-    Remember that you are not alone in your grief and you can ask for support every step of the way. 


As you prepare to return to work after the death of a loved one, or you have recently found out that your loved one has a terminal illness, you will have to inform your boss about these changes in your life. A death or terminal illness in the family is a major life event that will affect many areas of your life, including your performance and commitments at work. Communicating your support needs with your manager at this time will allow them to support you through the transition. 

1.    Send an email

If talking about your grief face to face or on the phone feels too difficult at the moment, consider sending an email instead. Writing about your situation in an email may feel easier. Plus, it will help you organise your thoughts and allow you to communicate your needs more effectively. We’ve included an example email that you can use as a template below. 

2.    Be honest

In your email, be upfront about how much time you’ll need to take off from work as well as when you can expect to return to the office. If you are caring for a terminally ill family member, keep your manager informed about whether you’ll need to take time off for hospital visits, etc. If you’re unsure about how much bereavement or compassionate leave you’ll need, be honest about this too. Your manager or HR rep may be able to guide you.

3.    Ask about the company’s policy

Ask your manager or HR department about the company’s bereavement or compassionate leave policy. Many companies offer paid time off for compassionate leave, however this is not a statutory rule. 

If you need to take time off to care for a terminally ill family member, there are carer’s rights in the UK that protect you from discrimination. We’ve included detailed information about bereavement leave in the UK in Section 4 of this guide. 

4.    Request them to inform coworkers and clients

You can also request your manager to inform your coworkers and, if applicable, clients about your circumstances and that you will be taking time off work. 

5.    Request flexible timings

If you have additional responsibilities after the death or terminal illness diagnosis of a loved one, you can request more flexible timings or even permission to work remotely. This will depend on your company’s policy. You could suggest a trial period and offer to sort it out with your manager and coworkers so that business as usual isn’t affected. 

Sample email to your manager

Subject: Death in the Family: Request for Leave of Absence

Dear [Boss’s Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I have some sad news. My father passed away on [date]. I am writing to request a leave of absence from work to organise the funeral and take care of subsequent arrangements. 

I will need to take 3 days off from work, starting from [date]. If there are any changes in my schedule I will inform you at the earliest. 

I would also like information about the company’s bereavement or compassionate leave provisions, and if I am entitled to any paid leave during this time. As you can imagine, I will be needing to take some time off work to handle my father’s affairs and support my mother and siblings. 

Lastly, I would like to request you to please inform my coworkers about my situation. I hope my absence won’t be an inconvenience to the team. I will not be available on email until next Monday, but they can still reach me in the case of an emergency. 

I appreciate your understanding during this difficult time for my family. Please let me know if you would like any further information from me. I look forward to rejoining work soon, once everything is settled.

Thank you.

[Your name]

Ready to read more? Here are all the parts of this guide ;
1.    Coping with overwhelming emotions at work
2.    Informing your boss or manager about the death or terminal diagnosis of your loved on
e (you are here)
3.    Talking with coworkers about death or terminal illness of a loved one
4.    Bereavement leave provisions in the UK