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What is Bereavement Leave?

Photo by Annie Spratt

The COVID-pandemic has taught businesses many important lessons: we had to adapt to the new reality of remote working and reconsider the importance of supporting employees going through the loss of their loved ones. Bereavement leave has been a rare employee benefit, but nowadays many companies are thinking of developing bereavement leave policies.

Read on to learn the definition of bereavement leave, its best practices and things to consider when building a bereavement leave policy in your company.

What is Bereavement Leave?

Bereavement leave, also known as compassionate leave, is time off provided to employees who lost a family member, such as a spouse or a child. Bereavement leave is not compulsory by law but if provided, it is meant to give an employee time to mourn and make arrangements such as memorial services, funerals, resolving matters of inheritance and other related events.

Companies that provide bereavement leave offer it as a separate type of paid time-off just like sick leave or vacation time off its own leave time budget. When an employee exhausts their bereavement leave budget, they can consult their manager to extend their leave at the cost of their sick leave days or using unpaid time-off.

Why Bereavement Leave is Important?

It’s important to have bereavement leave in your company’s policy for multiple reasons:

  • Give employees time and space to process feelings of grief
  • Allow them to handle event and document arrangements
  • Give them time away from work to travel for funeral or memorial services
  • Allow them to spend time with family members
  • Show that the company cares and supports their employees

Very few companies offer bereavement leaves, especially as paid time-off. But the COVID-pandemic revealed the importance of having one, supporting their staff and giving them time to recover mentally and physically.

How Does Bereavement Leave Work?

If an employee wishes to take a bereavement leave, they should notify their manager immediately about that. In addition to the manager’s approval, they may be required to provide documentation with regard to their bereavement leave.

If a company provides bereavement leaves as a part of their leave management program, they are most likely to offer about 3–5 days off, especially if an employee has to travel or attend religious events. Otherwise, employees are expected to spend other PTO budgets or take unpaid time-off usually no longer than 5 days or decide to work from home.

No law requires employees to include bereavement leave in their policy and pay for it except for the state of Oregon: it mandates 2 weeks bereavement leave for any business with more than 25 employees. But if a company provides bereavement leave as a part of their employee benefits package, then the bereavement pay is usually calculated on the base pay rate at the time of absence and doesn’t include incentives, bonuses or other special types of compensation.

How to Build a Bereavement Leave Policy?

A well-structured bereavement leave policy should be a part of an employee handbook along with other types of leaves, describe employee eligibility, the leave request process, the amount of time and more. Go through the following list of questions to develop a well-thought bereavement policy.

  1. Which employees qualify for the leave? Is it only full-time employees? Are part-time, temp and contract employees included? Are they eligible as soon as they join your company or what amount of time are they required to have worked before they are? Are employees on discipline eligible?
  2. What relatives the policy covers? Do you provide bereavement leave to mourn distant relatives and friends? Do you cover miscarriage or pet death?
  3. How many days is offered? Usually, companies provide 3–5 days. In case travelling and events arrangements are involved, you may want to offer a few more days.
  4. How many days off will be paid for? As long as companies are not required by law to pay for bereavement leave, your company is allowed to choose if it offers paid time-off and for how many days of absence are paid if any.
  5. How will pay be calculated? The bereavement pay is usually calculated on the base pay rate at the time of absence and doesn’t include bonuses or other compensations.
  6. What is the leave request process? Are employees required to provide proof of death or the obituary note for the funeral program? How long is it supposed to take to process a leave request? Who is responsible for leave request approval?

Check out bereavement leave policy examples to help you get started.

Ready to Implement a Bereavement Leave Policy?

To make sure bereavement leave requests are managed swiftly and its balances calculated accurately to the minute, consider leave management software, like actiPLANS — it streamlines leave requests, automates paid-time-off and sick leave balance calculations and displays employee attendance in a single team calendar.

Create custom absence types, fine-tune their accrual rules, assign the responsible managers and allow your employees to use them in the online team calendar or from their mobile app. To never miss a single minute of the bereavement time and automate balance calculations, connect it with actiTIME — time tracking software to get a robust time and attendance tracking system. Try actiPLANS for free with a 30-day trial (no credit card required).

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