Compassionate Leave – How Many Days Can You Take?

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Last updated 21 April, 2022

In need of time away from work due to a family member passing on? You have our deepest sympathies. Find out how many leave days are permitted. 

Employees are safeguarded from being overworked through regulations put in place by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). The government aims to create a healthy work culture for both employees and employers, so it sets out rules on how much leave an employee is entitled to in certain scenarios. 

In this article, we explore how many days of compassionate leave employees in Singapore are allowed. We also look into the eligibility criteria and what an employee needs to provide to get approval.

What is compassionate leave?

Compassionate leave is paid time off that allows you to go to or prepare for a funeral for family members.

There is no legal requirement for compassionate leave in Singapore. According to MOM, there is no statutory entitlement for compassionate leave. 

As such, this type of leave depends on the terms of the employment contract or an agreement between employee and employer. Alternatively, the employee can apply for annual leave or unpaid leave. 

When compassionate leave is covered by your employment contract, the number of days you’re entitled to is usually stated. 

Otherwise, you’ll have to seek your employer’s permission to take compassionate leave, subject to his/her approval.  

Most companies give at least two to three days of paid leave. Some employers may require that employees submit a death certificate if the leave is not indicated in the employment contract. 

Another point to consider is that the loss of an immediate family member, such as parents, grandparents and siblings, will generally qualify you for compassionate leave. However, this may not apply for more distant relatives. 

Who is eligible for compassionate leave?

All employees are eligible for compassionate leave in Singapore. However, not all employers have to provide this type of time off since it is not legally required by MOM.

Generally speaking, if you have worked for your company for at least three months, or passed the required probation period, then you might be considered ‘eligible’. This means that the company has a responsibility to grant you compassionate leave if guaranteed by the employment contract or mutual agreement.

You may also be eligible for compassionate leave if you are not a full-time employee, such as if you’re employed part-time or working on a contract basis. In this case, it is up to the employer as to whether to provide compassionate leave. If offered, it may be unpaid.


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Contract terms associated with compassionate leave

Some of the phrases in your employment agreement associated with compassionate leave may not be immediately understandable. Here's what they signify.

Only for employees who have been with the company for a longer period 

If you come across this phrase in your contract, it implies that your firm wants to give more compassionate leave to longer-serving workers.

The number of days granted to employees may also vary by company.

For example, the company may provide two days of compassionate leave to workers who have been with them for less than five years and three days of compassionate leave to those who have worked there for more than five years.

Approval for no-pay or annual leave for a longer duration of employee absence

If you need to go abroad to attend a funeral or need more time to deal with funeral arrangements or simply to process your grief, your company's provided leave days may not be enough.

If you come across this clause in your contract, it implies that you are entitled to take annual leave or unpaid time off to continue your absence. 

Compassionate leave per demise

Some employers calculate compassionate leave on a per-death basis. For example, if your contract states that you will receive three consecutive days off per demise, it implies that you will be granted three leave days in a row for each family member who passes on.

Entitlement for immediate nuclear family 

This phrase in your contract may highlight the granting of more compassionate leave if the family member you are grieving is part of your immediate family. 

For example, an employer might state that employees receive two days of compassionate leave for each death of a family member, but immediate nuclear family members (spouse, parents, children) get five days instead. This allows those who are grieving more time to take care of their affairs.

Granting compassionate leave at the discretion of the employer

If this phrase is in your contract, it means that your company has the right to refuse or approve compassionate leave for its employees.

Companies may choose to use this clause to deny or shorten leave, for example during times of manpower crunch. 


Why should you care about your company's policy on compassionate leave?

If your contract has any of the terms listed above, it is a good idea to be familiar with them.

This will help you know what to expect if and when you need to take time off from work because of a death in the family. It can also give you an advantage when negotiating with your employer for more compassionate leave.

Remember that these policies vary from company to company, so it is important to read your contract carefully. 

What should you do if denied compassionate leave?

If you need time off and feel that your request has been denied unfairly, you can seek alternative recourse: 

  • Clarify why your request was denied. For example, if your company states it is because there are no bereavement days in its policy, check if an arrangement can be worked out by mutual agreement. 
  • Seek to apply for leave or unpaid time off
  • Discuss with your employer the possibility of working from home or working shorter hours so you can still attend to funeral arrangements or take the time you need to grieve

If none of these solutions work and you think that your employment contract has been infringed, you do have the option of filing a complaint with MOM. However, this should be your last resort as it can lead to negative consequences for both you and your employer.

In conclusion, compassionate leave is an important aspect that employees should be aware of. If you find yourself in a situation where you need time off from work, it is important to know what your rights are


It’s best to be prepared ahead of time to cushion the blow of unforeseen or unfortunate circumstances for yourself and your loved ones. Besides familiarising yourself with your contract’s compassionate leave terms, compare cancer insurance plans that can help protect your family in the case of severe illness. 

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