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Is Bereavement Leave Paid?

Bereavement leave is a topic nobody wants to talk about, but how does it work? Is bereavement leave paid? Learn all you need to know about it in this post.

Gabriele Culot
Written by Gabriele Culot
January 24, 2023
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Key Takeaways

1. Bereavement leave covers time off employees take to deal with the death of a loved one

2. While there is no legal mandate to offer paid bereavement leave in the US, companies offer an average of three days

3. Bereavement leave policies should be clear and easily accessible in any organization’s employee handbook

The circumstances surrounding bereavement leave, also known as funeral leave, are always unfortunate. In short, bereavement leave is a type of leave given to an employee following the death of a family member or friend.

Many organizations today are flexible regarding the number of days you can take off. However, the standard time frame is three days of paid bereavement leave, though additional time off may be given in some cases.

Understanding how bereavement leave works

As there can be a lot of variation between different company policies or legal obligations when it comes to bereavement leave, you should review your contract and company policy with your human resources management department as a first step.

Suppose your company does not offer this kind of leave and will not take steps to support you. In that case, you could use your other employer-supplied sick, personal, or vacation days to take a few days off. Many companies might allow you to work from home or take unpaid bereavement leave, if nothing else.

In most situations, employees will likely be allowed to take the time. Still, it’s crucial to maintain contact and communication with your employer or human resources department regarding the status of your time away. 

Is Bereavement Typically Paid?

In the US, it’s not standard for companies to pay their employees for time off taken to work through grief, as no law mandates that they do. While many companies are changing their outlook and conditions regarding the matter, they are not legally obligated to adhere to a bereavement payment. Many businesses still view bereavement as unpaid time.

What does bereavement leave cover?

Only spouses, siblings, parents, and children fall under most company guidelines regarding bereavement leave. It has generally been rare for bereavement pay regulations to include the loss of a grandparent, close friends, a domestic partner, foster child, stepchild, step-parent, parent-in-law, or a loved one outside of direct family.

Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for employers to expand their bereavement time guidelines, but that will vary by company, state, or depending on the presence of a collective bargaining agreement or leave law.

Understanding the conditions of bereavement leave is vital in knowing what to expect should the unthinkable happen. Hopefully, you won’t have to use up your vacation time or sick leave .

Remember to review your employee handbook in detail regarding bereavement and family and medical leave. In some cases, this benefit will only apply to full-time employees.

Benefits of Bereavement Leave

For employers, offering bereavement leave encourages a positive and productive workplace. Employees don’t have to worry about their income suffering should they have to take time off when a close family member passes away. It gives them time to recover from a loss and to rest easy knowing that their employer is empathetic and understanding. 

Bereavement leave lets you mentally and physically begin to process grief without worrying about fulfilling your obligated number of work days. Of course, there’s no way to determine how long the grieving process might take. Still, those initial days surrounding yourself with family and friends during and after funeral services are beyond helpful.

While there are no real drawbacks to bereavement leave, it has some complexities, mostly caused by how it’s regulated. As we mentioned above, depending on federal or state laws, bereavement leave is not paid in many cases. Also, the average length of bereavement leave (in the United States) is only three days, rarely enough for you to grieve appropriately. Dealing with these complexities can add stress and pain to an already difficult situation.

Requesting Bereavement Leave

Asking for bereavement leave won’t be difficult if you know what to do. You’ll have to:

  1. notify your employer about the situation and that you will need time off as soon as possible 
  2. review your bereavement leave policy and whether you’ll receive paid leave
  3. determine the amount of time you might need to take off

Some employers may ask for a written leave request to determine eligibility and for you to supply the necessary documentation, such as a death certificate. You might also need to arrange work handovers and coverage. From there, you can ask your supervisor or Human Resources department to communicate with your team or with any coworkers who might be affected by your absence.

Effectively Handling Bereavement Requests with Deel

Grief and bereavement policy are sensitive subjects in the workplace. In many cases, they involve devastated employees suffering the loss of an immediate family member. They will likely be much more focused on personal matters than their current work projects, and rightfully so. We believe it’s very important to consider their well-being and enable them to take their time to process their loss.

Deel PTO can help you manage employee leave efficiently and effectively. Our Slack plugin aims to make it easier for employers and employees to communicate and arrange their time off to maintain a manageable work-life balance. 

We want to help people worldwide work better and advocate for a positive work culture that includes bereavement leave and paid time off during difficult times.

Book a demo today and learn how easy it can be to streamline your leave management.

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