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Bereavement Leave

What is Bereavement Leave?

Bereavement Leave or bereavement time off or paid bereavement leave is a type of leave availed by an employee on the death of the employee's immediate family member or any relative or death of a loved one. Employees typically take time off to mourn, arrange a funeral, or finish the numerous small activities while handling the funeral.

Employees who have faced the loss of a loved one, a family member, a close friend, a relative, or a parent, are eligible for bereavement leave. Employees apply and avail such a type of leave to get prepare for, attend and manage the post-death activities upon departure from this world of their loved ones.

Who is eligible for bereavement leave?

Employees may avail of such leave based on the mutual understanding between the employer and the employee and there is no law as such for this sort of leave to be granted as legal. Except on estate in Oregon which started such a law on 2014 January 1, to grant bereavement leave to employees.

What are State laws for bereavement leave?

As per the Department of Labor website, Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to pay the employees for the time not worked and even includes attending a funeral. Such sort of agreement is generally between the two parties that are the employer and the employee – or the employee’s representative. Instead, employers can offer vacation, personal leave, sick leave, etc. for attending to such accidental affairs.

Do employers have to allow employees to avail bereavement leave?

As discussed earlier, employers are not bound to extend such favor but then again if they want to offer some relief that can be done with mutual agreement. Larger employers have their policy books and books of rules or employee manuals, leave policies, as well as procedural codes of conduct, are mentioned therein.

The practice of rules and regulations is common with small-scale employers as well. Such manuals and employee handbooks are available to human resource managers and staff for the policies to get implemented and for workers’ education purposes.

However, if employers have mentioned employees bereavement leave as paid ones, or otherwise, they are legally bound to comply with their instructions circulated within the organization for workers, until such policies are altered in the employers’ interest. Though, bereavement leaves and such benefit respite are in the larger interest of the employers as well in long run creating a breathing space for own employees by the provision of good workplace environments where workers are given importance to attend to their loved ones and families incidental emergencies.

Can employers offer bereavement leaves different to different employees?

The answer to this question is yes until there is no chaos in terms of differentiation upon class or caste etc. Employers may offer more bereavement leave to exempt employees and lesser to non-exempt employees. Similarly, the full-time and part-timers can be given different privileges, all as per your feasibility analysis, unless it is not discriminatory on a biased basis or unprofessional.

Which family members are covered under bereavement leave?

As there is nothing legal bounding upon employers, other than in Oregon State, employers may define close family members or other loved ones for such a leave. Those may include parents, siblings, spouse, children, (same) home living or domestic partners, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, etc.

How long bereavement leaves can be offered?

Bereavement leaves can be offered for loved ones for funeral attending and family members for more days. Again, the regulation is as per policies of the employers at the time of agreement of job offer or the rules changing from time to time.

What proof is required to avail bereavement leaves?

Some employers may require some sort of proof to avail of bereavement leaves. That proof can be an obituary, funeral program, or death certificate, failing which employer might cut the salaries upon workers join back without such evidence which was requisite as per policy. Employers may give notices for such provision when employees join back from bereavement leaves.

What is the difference between bereavement leave and funeral leave?

The bereavement leaves and the funeral leave seem similar but are different. The funeral leave is given for attending funeral programs only but the bereavement leaves are given to stay additional time to mourn the loss with the affected nears and dears.

What should employers do, offer or reject bereavement leaves?   

This is very important to know for employers that they should not reject such leaves because of the grief or complicated grief concern of your workers if not extended support might turn into anxiety and depression causing harmful consequences at the workplace. Therefore, the reliefs like bereavement leaves should better be extended to workers to let them know they and their relations are both important to you – in other words, you tell your workers you do care for them, giving higher morale to your employees.

The amount spent on bereavement as paid leaves, which around 88% of companies do, is far lesser than the turnover costs for organizations. Thereupon, employees cared for are more likely to remain with you. Some big names like Facebook, Meta, and Adobe provide up to one to four weeks of such paid leaves. Generally speaking, employees working full time are considered eligible for bereavement leaves encashment.

When your employees are in emotional trauma from losing loved ones, you at least give them relief from one thing that is being away from responsibilities of the workplace to get the exhaustion off their hearts and minds to be back at work in good mental health and hence physically better fit.

Emotional support is very vital to be well not only at the workplace but in employees’ personal lives outside offices and factories. The adequate time it takes to deal with an emotionally attached loss of any worker. Your HR manager must be aware of any changes in the behaviors of the workers when the workers are faced with any calamity.

And look into the very health of the affected employee. Bereavement leaves, even if a day or two, is a way to tell your employees you are standing with them at the harder employee’s time in life when they need the utmost of your support. Because the compensation is not only financials on spreadsheets, you even can never compensate for any loss but offer a kind of help when it is utmost needed and your employees are in feelings of grief and loss.

Who is considered immediate family for bereavement leaves? 

Following are the persons considered as an immediate family for bereavement leave:

What is the law about bereavement leave?

The law about bereavement leave, as per California Legislative Information, “Article 3 of Sick Leave [19859 – 19868.3] - (Article 3 added by Stats. 1981, Ch. 230, Sec. 55.)” – 19859.3 (a), is referred to that is inferred that an employee who is excluded from the definition of a state employee or nonelected officer or executive branch employee but not a member of civil service, is given bereavement leave with pay upon the death of blood relative, adoption, or marriage, or immediate household of an employee at death time. With the request support document of substantiation as evidence should be applied to the immediate supervisor of and by the employee going on such leave.

And if additional bereavement leave is required, the employee concerned may utilize accrued vacation, compensating time off, or authorized leave without pay, but subject to the approval of appointing authority.

In this connection, Assembly Bill (AB) 2999 was presented amidst COVID-19 encompassing several benefits for employees’ protected leaves having a form drafted for such leave for employees’ ease. And training of employers’ particular staff to administer such leaves, was also part of the bill.

However, AB 2999 drafted 10 days of unpaid bereavement unpaid time that may not be consecutive but is to be completed within 3 months of the death of the spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, or domestic partner.

How to devise a bereavement policy? 

Following things should be considered for devising a bereavement policy while managers must know how to deal the sensitive times concerning employees’ leave on unavoidable incidents:

What is the status of the employee who is applying for bereavement leave (full time or part-time)

How many dependent and immediate or extended family members does an employee have

Either Bereavement leave is paid or unpaid (nature of leave as per organizational policy)

What Documentation is the requirement for such leave and when

What systems are there and how to use those relating to time off and its tracking

Amount of time applied for, forwarded, and to be approved by whom – how many days of bereavement leave is requisite

In other words, bereavement leave is like a grievance pay or paid time off as support to employees by the employers. Moreover, your HR Managers should consider that not all the employees can inform their supervisor timely, but leaving without information is a dangerous call for employees, therefore adequate training should be given to all employees on such policies to avoid inviting any misdoing on the professional part hence affecting personal lives of the workers at large.

Related: Bereavement, Sick Leave Pay, Leave of Absence, Disability Leave, Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).