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Bereavement Leave Policies: Some Do’s and Don’ts

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Creating a bereavement policy requires careful thought and consideration. As an employer, aim to treat employees fairly and with empathy so that your policies foster loyalty and productivity . It is a good practice to document the bereavement policy in the employee handbook.

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What exactly is bereavement?

Bereavement is the period of grief and loss that people can experience when they lose someone that they were close to. When someone loses a family member or friend, this can be one of the most difficult times in their life. The bereavement process is different for everyone, and it’s important to acknowledge how it can impact employees.

Following a loss, one of your employees may need to make arrangements for funerals, wakes, shivas, iddahs and other formalities, such as notifying all family and friends . Employees may have concerns about taking time away from their job, and they will need support and understanding from their employer.

Types of bereavement

Feelings of grief and bereavement can happen with other losses. The following circumstances could result in bereavement:

  • Ending an important relationship
  • Experiencing the death of a pet or loved one
  • Learning about a long-term illness or disease
  • Losing the possibility of achieving a dream or goal

Advantages of bereavement leave

Managing bereavement can be a sensitive issue. An employee may not be able to perform their normal duties due to the grief they are experiencing. Bereavement leave is designed to provide time away from work to handle official matters surrounding the death of a loved one and to allow the person time to mourn and recover from the experience.

There are advantages to an employer for offering bereavement leave, including:

  • Fosters productivity since it allows staff to mourn
  • Ensures employees don’t feel the need to focus on work while distracted
  • Promotes company loyalty because it shows empathy and compassion for employees when they need support and understanding
  • Builds a stronger relationship with the employee who needs bereavement leave

Example bereavement policy

Having a bereavement policy available can help managers guide employees through the process. Adding a bereavement policy to your employee handbook or your internal website can make it easier for employees to access when they need it. Here’s an example bereavement policy that you can use as a guideline if you need to create one:

If you are affected by a loss, please talk to your manager or supervisor. The company will support employees during the bereavement process and can help you with any questions you may have about the bereavement leave policy.

Bereavement leave for an immediate family member

At the discretion of the company, full-time employees may take up to three (3) days off with pay. Part-time employees will receive pro-rata pay. The company reserves the right to request verification of the need for bereavement leave.

Non-family member funeral leave

At the discretion of the company, full-time employees may take up to one (1) day off with pay to attend the funeral of a close, non-family member. Part-time employees will receive pro-rata pay.

The company reserves the right to request verification of the funeral.

Additional bereavement leave

Employee’s individual circumstances may be discussed at the discretion of the company and additional non-paid leave of up to four (4) days may be granted following the death of an immediate family member.

Employees must follow the company guidelines for requesting leave and tracking time away from work.

Related:How to Create a Time Off Policy

Actions to take as a manager

Managers can take certain actions when an employee is affected by loss and grief. They should have a good working relationship with their employees and know how to work with them in an empathetic manner. Here are some actions a manager should take to help employees through bereavement leave:

  1. Offer sympathy. Your employee will appreciate genuine sympathy and support. Let the employee decide which details they want to share.
  2. Be discrete. Since this is a personal matter, avoid discussing the situation with anyone else but an HR representative. The employee should be able to decide who they want to tell and when.
  3. Review the policies on bereavement leave and discuss the options with the employee. In some cases, it may be possible for the employee to take unpaid, sick or vacation days if they need more time than bereavement leave covers.
  4. Notify HR if they need to process any bereavement policy paperwork. It could be helpful to serve as an intermediary between your employee and the HR representative.
  5. It’s important to give your employee the time they need to work through the process, but you may also need to know when they plan to return to schedule shifts and duties. Try to maintain contact with your team member to gauge when they’ll be ready to return.
  6. Create a return to work plan. The employee may not be able to return to their full duties immediately on return, or there may be a backlog of tasks they must complete. Creating a plan will help to ease the process.

Related:How to Manage Employees

Bereavement FAQs

The following are some questions you may have about bereavement leave:

Is bereavement leave mandatory?

Bereavement leave is discretionary, meaning there is no federal law requiring it, and most states also don’t have a requirement. Oregon is the only state that requires up to two weeks of bereavement leave for employers with more than 25 employees.

In Illinois, the Child Bereavement Leave Act states that companies with more than 50 employees must allow 10 days off following the loss of a child.

What can bereavement leave be used for?

An employee can use bereavement leave for making funeral arrangements, attending the funeral, handling wills and estates,undergoing counseling and grieving.

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