We’ve all experienced our fair share of familial deaths. It’s a tough time, from dealing with the emotional distress to handling the logistics of arranging the funeral. But, oftentimes, employees might hesitate to breach the topic about taking leave from work— a necessary formality. Unfortunately, many organizations miss out on creating a policy that allows their employees to take bereavement leaves and properly grieve their loved ones.

With this guide, you can understand what is bereavement leave, the importance of having this leave policy, and how to set it up.

What is Bereavement Leave?

Bereavement leave is time-off taken by an employee following the death of a relative or friend. Some companies even provide time-off for their employees when their pet passes away. It’s important that employees know the procedure for taking bereavement leave.

Unfortunately, very few countries have created laws to help citizens take bereavement leave from their place of employment. This is why HRs need to set up a bereavement leave policy to provide employees with adequate time to deal with their loss.

While there are no rules in place that mandate bereavement leaves to be paid, HRs need to consider how sensitive this time is for their employees and consider making bereavement leaves paid to let them grieve their loss and come back to work with a better headspace.

Do You Need a Bereavement Leave Policy?

Although companies aren’t required to provide bereavement leave to their employees, it’s important to recognize the distress and grief that your employees have to experience in this difficult time.

Forcing them to come to work or making them take leave without pay would make this grieving period even more tough for your employees.

Instead, by giving them paid time off work, you show your employees that you care about their wellbeing and consider them as an important part of your company. Approximately 94% of U.S. employers offer paid bereavement leave through a separate policy or as part of a paid time off or paid sick time plan.

Your employees would then be able to come back from their bereavement leave after having taken time to sort through the difficult situation. This small addition to your overall leave policy can help you foster a humane work environment.

Bereavement Leave FAQs

bereavement FAQs

1. How many days of bereavement leave should I give?

The common number of days that firms give for bereavement leave is 3 to 5 days. But, it’s important to take into account different cultural and religious customs that employees from different faiths would have. For instance, in Judaism, the family of the deceased mourn for 7 days.

2. Is bereavement leave paid?

In some companies, bereavement leaves are included within the sick days that every employee’s PTO offers. Others treat bereavement leave as a distinct type of leave, providing 3 to 5 days in the event of a loss. Employees who want to take a longer leave can use their other paid leaves or take a leave without pay.

As a general rule, most companies do not roll over the bereavement leave from one year to the next, unlike other types of time-off like PTO/ sick days. This is done so that employees don’t end up accumulating unused bereavement leave.

3. Who is considered an immediate family for bereavement leaves?

Employees can usually apply for bereavement leaves for a period of 3 to 5 days for the death of a mother, father, child, sibling, spouse, (unmarried) domestic partner, guardian, or grandparent.

Some companies even permit employees to take a day off when an employee loses their aunt, uncle, cousin, in-law, or even a close friend. You should also consider providing leave when your employee loses their pet.

4. Is bereavement leave required by law?

Most countries have no laws about providing mandatory bereavement leave. Employers can maintain specific bereavement leave policies and accommodate these leave days according to their own discretion.

But countries like France have laws that mandate 3 days of leave for the death of a spouse or partner and 5 days of leave for the death of a child.

5. Should employees show proof of death for bereavement leave?

This depends on your policy. You can add instructions within your bereavement leave process that employees need to show an obituary, funeral program, or death certificate. However, since the timelines will be constrained, you can just ask your employee to provide details of the deceased— their name, date of death, and the employee’s relationship to the deceased.

6. What if an employee asks for more bereavement leave days than specified in my company’s policy?

Some employees may request for more leave days for bereavement depending on whether they have to travel to another place for the funeral, have long religious ceremonies to attend, or have funeral arrangement responsibilities to handle.

It is up to the company and the HR to treat this on a case by case basis and be flexible with the rules.

7. Should managers be encouraged to attend the funeral services of the employee’s deceased relative?

Attending the funeral service is based on the manager’s relationship with the employee. Some employees would feel touched that their manager took the time to pay their respects while others might prefer privacy.

If the manager has a close relationship with his/her employee, just visiting the employee can be a nice gesture.

Bereavement Leave Policies in Different Countries

Despite no laws in place, each country has its own common practices when giving employees leave for bereavement. Here’s how bereavement leave looks like in different countries:

bereavement leave policy - attendancebot

United States: The US does not have laws that grant mandatory bereavement leaves (except for Oregon) but many employers grant 3 days paid leave for close family members.

United Kingdom: According to certain sources, employees can take a “reasonable” number of days off as time off for dependents.

New Zealand: Leave is given based on closeness, cultural responsibilities, and logistical responsibilities. The typical leave period of bereavement is 3 days.

Spain: 2 days leave is given to all workers for the death of first- and second-degree relatives and in situations that require travel to attend the funeral, employees are given up to 4 days of leave.

Singapore: Bereavement leave in Singapore is only dependent on a contractual agreement between the employee and employer. Typical contracts allow 3 to 5 days of leave.

South Africa: Covered under Family Responsibility Leave, 3 days of paid leave is given to employees but only if they have 4 continuous months of employment, have worked 4 days a week and when the death is of a close relative.

China: Rules for such leave are based on local guidelines. Typically, 1 to 3 days of paid leave is given to all Chinese employees.

France: Employees get 3 days of paid bereavement leave and for deceased children, employees get 5 days of paid leave.

India: There are no legal measures for bereavement leaves but many firms provide 7 days of leave in such cases.

Creating a Bereavement Leave Policy

Having a bereavement leave policy in place makes it easier for employees to apply for bereavement leave without scrambling to figure out the procedure. It also shows your employees that you have policies in place that help them during their time of distress.

If you’re creating your bereavement leave policy, you can start by answering these details to understand what your policy accommodates:

  • Number of days allowed: The number of leave days for bereavement would depend on the internal policies you have. However, you should also specific conditions within which the employee can take more days— like during the death of a spouse or child, or if the employee has the travel to another place for the funeral.
  • Which employees qualify for the leave: If your company also hires contractual or unionized employees, you’ll need to specify which employees would be eligible.
  • Eligibility for bereavement leave: Eligibility for leave includes which kind of relative has passed away.
  • Whether the leave is paid or unpaid: Make it clear whether the employee will get paid days off and how many bereavement leave days will be paid.
  • Procedure for an employee to apply for bereavement leave: This can include what means of communication the employee needs to use and what details they need to provide.

Also read: Your guide to creating and managing a leave policy for the millennial workforce

Bereavement Leave Policy Template

We’ve created a template below to make it easier for you to draft a policy for bereavement leave within your company. You can use the template and customize it based on the number of bereavement leave days you’ll provide for your employees.

Bereavement Leave Policy for XYZ Company

Policy statement

An employee may be granted bereavement leave in the event of the death of a relative.

Purpose

Bereavement leave provides the employee with the much needed time off needed to be with loved ones, make funeral arrangements, attend the funeral, and grieve their loss. 

This policy defines the maximum bereavement leave which may be granted, establishes the compensation provided for the leave days by the company, and the procedure to grant such bereavement leave.

Eligibility

All permanent employees are covered under this policy. 

Contractual and freelance employees may take bereavement leave without any compensation.

Terms and Conditions

The following are the terms and conditions that employees need to keep in mind when applying for bereavement leave:

1. All employees are entitled to bereavement leave with pay.

2. Bereavement leave is granted to all employees for a maximum of 7 days without a loss of benefits in the event of a death of any of the following family members of the employee: 

  • Spouse 
  • Child, foster child, step-child 
  • Parent, parents-in-law, step-parent, foster parent, legal guardian 
  • Brother, step-brother, sister, step-sister.

3. Bereavement leave is granted to all employees for a maximum of 5 days without a loss of benefits in the event of a death of any of the following family members of the employee: 

  • Grandparent or step-grandparent 
  • Grandchild or step-grandchild 
  • Son-in-law or daughter-in-law

4. Bereavement leave is granted to all employees for a maximum of 3 days without a loss of benefits in the event of a death of any of the following family members of the employee: 

  • Brother-in-law or sister-in-law
  • Aunt, uncle, cousins, nephews, or nieces

5. Bereavement leave is granted to all employees for a maximum of 1 day without a loss of benefits in the event of a death of any of the following relatives of the employee: 

  • Friend, neighbor, or fellow co-worker

6. If the burial occurs outside of the city that the company operates within, the employee can be granted up to 5 days of leave without bereavement pay. 

7. If the employee has any religious ceremonies that require them to take more leave days for bereavement, they will be granted these extra leave days without bereavement pay.

Procedure Employees must send an email to their manager/ supervisor and the HR mentioning the following:

  • Number of days (including the dates) they will be on bereavement leave
  • Name of the deceased as well as their relation to the employee
  • Any travel requirements for the funeral
  • Any religious ceremonies.
Compliance Employees who fail to comply with the procedure and the terms outlined above will not receive payment for bereavement leave days.

5 Smart Hacks for HRs to Make Bereavement Leaves Easier

Besides setting up a bereavement policy for your employees, it’s also important to follow through with the policy and have a few rules in place to make it simpler for your employees to take their leave at this time of distress.

bereavement leave - hacks for HR

1. Ensure every employee has a work buddy who can take up their pending work

Since such leaves are unpredicted, your grieving employee may have some pending tasks at work. You don’t want deadlines to be missed while your employee is grieving. Set up a buddy system to avoid work falling from the cracks.

Ensure each employee has a buddy who has enough information about the work they do and can take up their tasks in their absence. This way, work won’t come to a standstill despite not having one of your employees in the office.

2. Schedule a one-on-one meeting with the employee after they come back from their bereavement leave

It’s crucial to check-in with your employees after they come back from their bereavement leave and have a sit-down conversation.

As an HR, you need to learn what your employee needs to get through these tough times, understand what they require to adjust, whether this is a schedule change at work, lessening their workload or letting them work flexibly.

Losing a loved one can also come with additional responsibilities that your employee needs to handle. Having a conversation with your employee can help you understand the challenges that your employee has and allow you to help them through it.

Some companies even ask their employees to attend grief counseling sessions after their loss to help them process their emotions in a healthy way and transition back to their daily routine.

3. Ensure your leave policy is introduced to the team and easy to access

This may be a no-brainer but sometimes, HR policies may be hard to find. Ensure that your employees are given a primer about your bereavement policy and new hires are provided the details during their onboarding.

You can even make it easier for your employees by storing the bereavement policy as well as the leave request form within the company’s Google Drive and shared with the team.

4. Templatize the leave request that your employees need to send

Having to deal with the death of a loved one is tough. Informing your supervisor about it is not something you need to worry about. Make it easier for your employees to apply for bereavement leave by templatizing the request.

You can provide a leave request form and your grieving employee just needs to fill in the important details and send it to their supervisor within minutes.

Here’s an example of a bereavement leave form request that is specific and quick to fill for the employee:

bereavement leave form

5. Give employees the option to work within a flexible schedule, if they want to

Sometimes, your employee may need more time away after the funeral. They may be grieving and having difficulty getting back into the office, have added responsibility due to the loss of that relative, or have to travel far for the funeral.

You can offer these employees a flexible schedule. Let your employees work part-time, change their work timings according to their responsibilities, or even let them work remotely.

This is especially important if your employee has lost their spouse or parent since they would then have added household and/or familial responsibilities to deal with post-funeral. By giving them a flexible schedule, the employee will be able to attend to their new responsibilities without worrying about having a very rigid schedule at work.

A bereavement is a sudden event. We hope this guide helps you set up a bereavement leave policy. You can use AttendanceBot to simplify leave requests and allow employees to apply for time-off from anywhere, at any time.

You can set up bereavement leave within the bot, define the number of leave days, and configure it so that any requests that come in can be sent to the assigned manager or approved automatically.

Got any questions or need help in setting up a bereavement leave policy? Simply drop us a message and we’ll be happy to help you.

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