What is Bereavement Leave? An Employer’s Quick Guide to Handling Bereavement Leave


Going through a grieving process is one of the most challenging times of life for many people. When it happens to your employees, you can extend appropriate support and understanding to them by offering bereavement leave. Read on for a brief guide on how to handle this delicate situation as an employer.


What Does “Bereavement Leave” Mean?


“Bereavement leave” is a period of leave time an employer will give an employee in order to process the loss of a family member or loved one. Typically, the leave period will cover time for the employee to make funeral or other arrangements, attend the funeral, and additional time to simply grieve.


When Should I Offer Bereavement Leave?


The loss of a family member is an obvious reason to offer bereavement leave, but you may also consider offering leave to employees who are undergoing the divorce process, who have lost a pet, or have learned about a long-term illness or disease affecting them or a family member.


There are no federal laws that mandate private employers offer any bereavement leave, paid or unpaid. Check with your state to make sure there are no state-specific laws; however, the majority of states do not mandate the provision of bereavement leave either. You may, however, depending on your state, be required to allow time off for the passing of a child, or to allow employees to use personal, sick, or vacation leave days for bereavement purposes.

How Much Bereavement Leave Should I Offer?


Because there are few requirements on bereavement leave offerings for private employers, the choice of when to offer bereavement leave, as well as how many days to offer, is largely up to you as an employer.


If you choose to offer bereavement leave, it’s a good idea to outline the minimum leave time you will offer in a written policy or employee handbook. For example, your policy can specify a certain number of days you will allow as a minimum standard for the loss of an immediate family member, for a non-immediate or non-family member, for a pet, or for a divorce.


You can always, of course, offer more time depending on the circumstance of the individual employee. As with anything, try to be consistent between employees and comply with any policy you do set.


How Do I Handle an Employee’s Return from Bereavement Leave?


You can request proof of loss via the production of an obituary, funeral service bulletin, or other record; however, you should be careful to allow employees to wait to produce these documents until after they’ve been created (often several days following the loss).


At the end of the bereavement period, consider creating a plan for your employee to gently ease them back into their routine. Mapping out a manageable way to address backlogged work may reduce stress for employees.


How to Handle Employee Bereavement


As an employer, you are in a unique position to make a tough experience a bit easier on your valued employees. Treating your employees with grace and respect during times of grief builds strong relationships with your team members, fosters productivity long-term, and promotes standards like compassion and loyalty in your company’s culture.


Handling the bereavement leave process from end-to-end is a tricky thing to get right. If you’re looking to create the perfect (and perfectly compliant) bereavement leave policy, you may benefit from access to certified HR and compliance experts. If so, it’s time to contact Benely.