At some point in our lives, we’ll each face the loss of a loved one that requires us to take a step back from work to organize funeral arrangements, arrange affairs, and grieve the loss of our friend or family member.
As employers, offering bereavement leave or grievance pay can be a great way to offer support to your employees during this hard time. In some states, it may even be required.
What is bereavement leave?
Bereavement leave is a workplace policy that offers time off to an employee who has recently lost a family member or relative.
The specifics of these policies can vary from company to company. However, bereavement leave is typically offered as a way for employees to grieve their loss and navigate the logistics of funeral planning and the ordering of affairs without worrying that it’s detracting from their job performance.
Depending on the employer, bereavement leave can either be considered paid or unpaid leave. So, it’s important to clearly communicate the details of your plan with employees so they know what to expect when the time comes.
Is bereavement leave required by law in my state?
Federal laws do not require employers to offer bereavement leave or grievance pay to their workers, though some individual states do.
Here is a list of states that do require qualifying employers to offer bereavement leave:
What does a bereavement policy usually include?
When creating a bereavement policy for your employees, there are a few elements that are typically included:
- Details: clearly denote the details of your bereavement leave policy (whether you offer grievance pay, the duration of leave that is offered, any additional benefits, etc.)
- Eligibility: explain who can use bereavement leave benefits and when (restricted to full-time employees, only in the death of immediate family members, etc.)
- Procedures: explain how employees can ask for bereavement leave following the death of a loved one, and any documentation or proof that is required
By putting in the time to create a comprehensive bereavement leave policy, you can be better prepared for unexpected circumstances related to employee loss that may arise in the future.
Is grievance pay required? How much should I offer?
Employers may offer grievance or bereavement pay to their employers, though this is not something that is federally mandated or typically required by any individual state. However, grievance pay does give employers an additional way to show their support and help employees during a time of need.
If bereavement pay is something you’d like to offer employees, there is no right answer to how many days or weeks are deemed appropriate, but the industry standard tends to be around 3-5 days.
This is something you will have to consider internally, though make sure to clearly denote this in your bereavement policy, including any additional days of unpaid leave you offer afterward.
Should I require proof before granting bereavement leave?
Some employers may ask their employees to provide some sort of documentation or proof before granting bereavement leave. This is done to ensure the integrity of the bereavement leave, and prevent anyone from taking advantage of the policy.
Again, this isn’t something that is required by law, though it may be part of the procedures you set forth in your bereavement leave policy. So, you can discuss this matter internally to come up with the right choice for your team.
If this is something you decide to implement, some forms of proof you might request include an obituary, a funeral program, or even a death certificate. In some cases, you may just be able to ask the employee for the name of the deceased, the date of death, the city of death, and their relationship to the deceased in order to verify the death on your own.
How to support your employees through bereavement
Aside from bereavement leave, your team can show support to employees going through loss in a number of ways.
Some tips for supporting grieving employees include:
- Offering the grieving employee a flexible work schedule to take care of personal matters
- Finding other team members who can temporarily share the employees’ workload
- Providing the grieving team member with an internal mentor for emotional support
- Refraining from sending emails/making calls about work matters during the memorial
- Sending a donation of food or flowers to the employee
The death of a close loved one can make the following days and weeks a challenge. So when this happens to one of your employees, having a bereavement leave policy in place can provide them with the flexibility they need to take care of personal matters and grieve their loss.