How To Take Bereavement Leave
Updated July 21, 2022
When someone close to you passes away, taking bereavement leave from work can provide you time to process the loss and take a step toward healing. If you choose to take bereavement leave, it’s highly advisable to follow your company’s guidelines. Doing so can help ensure that your team members can function smoothly in your absence and that you will receive the appropriate pay. In this article, we explain what bereavement leave is and how to request it professionally.
What is bereavement leave?
Bereavement is a period of grief or mourning a person experiences after a loss, and bereavement leave is employer-sanctioned time off work granted after the death of a loved one.
Larger companies often have official policies for how to support bereaved employees. Other businesses, especially small to medium firms, work with their employees to determine their bereavement leave requirements on a case-by-case basis.
Family bereavement, or the death of a close relative, is the most common reason employers grant bereavement leave. The following people qualify as close relatives for most employers:
Your parents, including step-parents and adoptive parents
Your spouse or civil partner
Your children, including step-children and adoptive children
Some companies also recognize grandparents, grandchildren and the parents and siblings of your spouse as close relatives. Also, some companies allow employees to take bereavement leave following the loss of an extended family member or a close friend.
How to ask for bereavement leave
It is important to discuss bereavement leave parameters with your employer before taking time off. Most employers support bereaved employees and understand their need to take time off. Organize your bereavement leave as soon as possible after your loved one passes to respect your own emotions and the workflow of your employer.
Follow these steps when requesting bereavement leave:
1. Notify your employer as soon as possible
If your loved one is not in good health, you may choose to discuss the situation with your employer openly. This will prepare them for the possibility that you may take bereavement leave. During this time, if your company allows, you may also want to take time off to visit your loved ones and care for them. Some employers will grant you paid vacation time or agree to remote work arrangements, especially if you live far from family. If you find out suddenly that you will need bereavement leave, you may choose to let your supervisor know in a quick conversation before submitting an official request.
2. Review your bereavement leave policy
Companies with bereavement leave policies typically outline them in their employee handbook. Check your employee handbook to determine your company’s requirements and steps for bereaved employees requesting and taking leave.
Determine whether your company offers paid bereavement leave and how long your bereavement time lasts. You should also know whether your bereavement leave is separate from your regular leave entitlements or whether your company will deduct it from your paid vacation days. Once you understand the terms of your bereavement leave, you can make the arrangements you need. You might prefer to use paid vacation time, rather than unpaid bereavement leave, to minimize financial stress.
Sometimes only select employees qualify for paid leave. Many companies only offer paid bereavement leave to their full-time employees. Some also require full-time employees to serve a probation period, such as three months of continuous employment with the company, before claiming paid bereavement leave. Part-time workers, independent contractors and new hires can still usually take bereavement leave, but their companies may not offer paid leave.
Determine whether your company requires you to save and submit documents, such as funeral programs, when you return. If your company requires these documents, let your manager know if you are not attending the funeral.
If the employee handbook does not note bereavement leave terms, discuss your circumstances with your supervisor or human resources department to learn how to proceed. Some businesses offer time off for bereaved employees but don’t have formal policies.
Ask for a signed copy of bereavement leave documentation rather than relying on verbal agreements. Documentation clearly detailing the terms of your bereavement leave minimizes confusion about your intended date of return and clarifies your entitlements.
Related: Documentation in the Workplace
3. Determine how much time off you want and make a timeline
Consider your responsibilities, your own mental health and your finances when determining how much time off you want to take. Many employees take a combination of bereavement leave and personal leave after the loss of a loved one. If your company has a generous paid leave policy, you might take an extended break. You could also use sick leave, vacation time or personal days.
Creating a timeline for your leave and return to work should help you organize your thoughts after your loss. Note the funeral date, dates for travel, work deadlines and when you plan to return to the office. Some people return to work part-time before transitioning back to full-time work. If you intend to do this, note when these transitions will occur.
4. Make a written request for bereavement leave
After discussing your need for bereavement leave with your supervisor and human resources department, put your request in writing. Your written leave request gives you and your employer something to refer to during and after your leave. A formal letter is often best, but an email may suffice for some workplaces. Ask what your company prefers in your face-to-face or phone call meeting.
Leave of Absence Letter Format
Recipient company and address (name of optional)
Statement of gratitude and next steps
Closing and signature
The letter reads:
August 8, 20XX
ABC Company, Inc
1234 East Main Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Dear Mr. Diaz,
I am writing to request a one-month medical leave of absence beginning Monday, September 10 and ending Wednesday, October 10. My doctor has ordered a minimum 3-week recovery period (see signed recommendation attached).
I a happy to assist in handling any necessary preparations before beginning my leave, including training colleagues on upcoming projects. Thank you so much for your understanding.
Write your request for bereavement leave in a formal, polite tone. Send your request to your company’s human resources department or your supervisor. Your company may require you to include the following with your request:
The name of your loved one, the date or place of their passing and the relationship they had to you
How much bereavement leave you wish to take
Whether you want to take additional time off as paid vacation time
When you plan to return to work
How you plan to spend your bereavement leave
Your commitment to your employer and your job
Any arrangements you have made for other employees to take over your duties in your absence
Whether you are available via phone or email to discuss work matters while you are on leave
Your thanks for your employer’s understanding during this difficult time
Read more: How to Write a Professional Email
5. Supply relevant forms and documentation
Some businesses ask their employers to supply documentation supporting their request for bereavement leave, such as copies of obituaries and travel documents. Supplying all required documentation will make sure your company grants your bereavement leave without any delays.
Some companies have forms employees must sign to make sure they are paid for their bereavement leave. Ask whether your company has these forms, and return them promptly for processing.
6. Prepare workplace notes
Make sure to leave any notes about your existing duties to assist colleagues in managing your responsibilities while you are away. If you can, arrange for a coworker to help with your workload. If you are available to answer questions during leave, add your contact details to these notes.
7. Ask supervisor or HR to communicate with colleagues
You may want to request that your human resources representative or supervisor notify your colleagues of the reason for your leave, so you don’t have to answer questions about your absence on your return to work. If you do not want to talk further about the loss of your loved one, tell the human resources representative.
Example of a bereavement leave request
You can use the following bereavement leave request as a template to create your own:
I am writing to formally request bereavement leave. My mother, Mary Smith, passed away last night in [location]. I would like to request bereavement leave to return to my hometown and make funeral arrangements beginning July 1 through July 9. I will not need to take additional time off as paid vacation.
I remain committed to my position, and I will do my best to complete the projects I’m working on before then. Brandon Jones has agreed to handle my usual duties while I’m gone. Should you need to reach me while I’m away, please send an email to emailaddress@ISP.com or text my cell phone at 123-456-7890.
I appreciate your understanding at this time.
Remember to add the date and contact information for you and your recipient to a bereavement leave letter. Emails don’t require these details.
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