bereavement policy

Bereavement Policy: Everything You Need To Know

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A bereavement policy is an important and often overlooked aspect of HR. Not all companies offer bereavement leave, and it is important to find out what your company’s policy is when you need time off for a family death or for someone close to you.

What is a bereavement policy?

In short, a bereavement policy is time off provided to employees who have lost a loved one, such as a spouse, child, or another family member. 

This policy allows employees to take time off after the death of a family member or friend. Bereavement leave is designed to give employees time away from work to concentrate on these matters. It also allows them to focus on their own mourning. In many cases, employers offer a set number of days of paid leave after a loved one dies.

When a loved one passes away, it’s common for you to feel sadness and grief. From family members to pets and everyone in between, bereavement leave is available to anyone impacted by the death of a loved one. The main aim of these policies is to provide a sense of security for employees when something unexpected like a death occurs.

Who is eligible for it?

Bereavement leave is typically granted to allow employees time to recover from the emotional shock of losing a friend or family member. 

This form of leave can include: making arrangements for the funeral and burial or cremation, notifying government agencies such as the Social Security Administration of the death, and handling insurance policies and other documents related to the deceased’s estate. Some companies also allow bereavement leaves for employees who recently lost a pet too!

Is a bereavement policy mandated by law?

Bereavement leave is not mandated by law in the United States. Private employers are also not required to provide paid bereavement leave in most states. But most of them, around 88%, do offer paid bereavement leaves to their employees.

There is one notable exception, however, and that is Oregon. The bereavement leave law in Oregon allows employers with over 25 employees to offer up to two weeks of bereavement leave per family member. 

This may differ from company to company and according to your location.

How long should it be?

A person’s grieving process does not have a set time limit.

However, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics defines bereavement leave as time off to attend a funeral, so 3 days is common for immediate family and 1 day is common for other family members.

Many organizations employ a similar system of adjusting the amount of leave available depending on the family member. The duration of bereavement leaves is sometimes calculated according to the relationship an employee has with the deceased. In most cases, the longest amount of time is given to the immediate family (spouse, child, parent, grandparent, and in-laws). However, this differs from person to person, and exceptions may need to be made.

What should you include in your policy?

Having a well-designed bereavement leave policy helps guide employees and managers during difficult times. It is ideal to have the leave policy in an employee handbook along with other forms of leave (i.e. sick leave, family leave, vacation, etc.). In a documented bereavement leave policy, the following elements should be included:

  • What qualifies for bereavement leave, especially if there are different guidelines for immediate and extended family members;
  • How many bereavement days are available to employees;
  • Whether or not the leave will be paid;
  • Guidelines for requesting leave along with any documentation you may need;
  • Choosing a system for requesting and tracking your time off 

Will the leave be paid or unpaid?

There are no federal regulations requiring companies to provide paid leave to grieving employees, but a growing number of companies offer it anyway.

Wondering why? Because it’s good for your employees.

When there is a death in the family, you’d rather not have to worry about your job. However, even though this may not seem like much, it is extremely comforting to know that once things have settled down, you will have a stable job to get back to.

Other things to consider

There is no right way to approach a situation like this. However, including these tips in your bereavement policy can help you get started.

  • Ensure every employee has a dedicated buddy or replacement to take over his duties while they’re away on bereavement. You don’t want your employee to miss deadlines while grieving!
  • Sit face-to-face with your employee and talk things out after they’re back from their bereavement leave. Sometimes, all you need is someone to talk to. Having a conversation with your employee supports you in understanding the challenges your employee faces. It also enables you to offer support during these difficult times.
  • Make sure your entire company is aware of the rules surrounding bereavement policy. When you onboard new employees, ensure that employees receive a primer on your bereavement policy.
  • Give your employees flexibility if they choose to work through their grieving process. They may need to travel or make other arrangements for their family members. It’s important to keep these factors in mind while making the policy. You can do this by letting them work remotely, work part-time, or send them on a sabbatical.

While grieving is not an easy thing to go through for anyone, having a bereavement policy can help you reduce some of the stress that comes with it.