The experience of loss is difficult for every person. While each person copes with loss differently, losing a family member or a loved one is always a difficult time. Bereavement leave is a policy or leaves category that gives employees some time off work following the loss of a family member or any loved one. It is also known as “compassionate leave” or “grievance leave”.
For organizations who plan to have a bereavement leave in place, developing and implementing it takes sensitivity and caution. Balancing the company’s daily operations while being supportive to an employee who is grieving is essential.
Is it a legal requirement for companies to have a bereavement leave policy for employees?
In the United States, there is no federal mandate that requires companies to have bereavement leave policy in place. The inclusion of bereavement leave is up to the discretion of the organization.
The state of Oregon, in its Oregon Family Leave Act, mandates all employers who have 25 or more employees to provide their workers with bereavement leave. This bereavement leave provision allows for up two weeks leave after the death of a family member.
Very few countries have formal mandates on bereavement leave. Although there is no government mandate in the U.S., employers must recognize and acknowledge the strain on workers who have recently lost a loved one. Not allowing employees some time off during this difficult time may cause them added distress.
Does bereavement leave qualify as a paid leave?
Since there is no legal requirement to have bereavement leave in place, it is solely up to the employer if they will offer paid time off. Although this is the case, employers are encouraged to be sensitive to their employees’ needs, especially after the loss of a loved one. There are many things to take care of in such a time. For the bereaved employee, finding out that they have used up all of their leave is difficult and stressful.
What is the benefit of having Bereavement Leave for employees?
Having a bereavement leave policy in place is a big help for employees. Aside from dealing with grief, they also have to manage the logistics of funeral arrangements and other personal matters. Allowing employees to go on bereavement leave during this time is a way of giving them the support and help they need. They can also use this time to heal and recover. In this way, employees can be in a better place mentally for when they eventually return to work. Overall, having a bereavement leave in place will show employees that their employers care.
How much paid leave should a bereavement leave policy have?
The answer to this question varies from company to company. Researchers found that employers typically give three full working days of paid leave to employees following the death of a spouse, child, or parent. Other companies offer five full working days to give employees a full week to grieve and take care of personal matters. Again, it is up to the organization.
Aside from the specific number of days, what other particulars should be included in a bereavement leave policy?
Just as in any company policy, a bereavement policy should be clear and detailed to avoid misinterpretation or confusion. In developing a bereavement leave policy, consider the following questions:
How many days off can an employee take under bereavement leave?
Will the bereavement leave be a standard for every loss? What familial relationships are included – spouse, child, parent, grandmother, etc.?
How does bereavement leave affect maternity leave in case of a stillbirth?
Will bereavement leave vary by position (hourly workers, part-time workers, full-time workers)?
Will the company require any proof or documentation when applying for bereavement leave?
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