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What Is Bereavement Leave and How Is It Paid?

If you have recently lost a loved one, you understand just how difficult it can be. Everyone has a family, and just about everyone will experience the loss of a family member.

If someone is asked to come to work directly after the death of a family member, they may not be able to focus on the job they have to do. Therefore, many companies offer bereavement leave. This is important because it provides employees with time and space to process an emotional loss.

What do you need to know about bereavement leave, and how is it typically paid?

An Overview of Bereavement Leave

Typically, bereavement leave is the time off that an employer gives an employee after the death of a loved one. Typically, this is a family member, but everyone defines their family differently. Right now, there is no federal law mandating that companies are required to provide employees with bereavement leave, but there are lots of employers and companies of all sizes that provide bereavement leave to their employees.

Just like vacation time and sick leave, bereavement leave can vary significantly depending on the policy of the employer. It is important for employers to clearly specify their policies surrounding their bereavement leave and ensure that their employees understand how it works.

When Can Employees Take Bereavement Leave?

Bereavement leave typically applies only in specific situations. Not all family members are covered, but the vast majority of companies will provide bereavement leave if a parent, grandparent, spouse, sibling, or child dies. There are some situations where companies might also include other family members or close friends, but every company handles this differently.

Keep in mind that both employers and employees need to be flexible in this situation. It is usually difficult to anticipate a death in the family, but it is incumbent on employees to provide employers with as much notice as possible. For example, if there is a family member who is dealing with a chronic illness, it might be a good idea for employees to let the employer know of the situation. That way, if that family member passes away, it does not come as a complete shock to an employer.

Regardless, there are situations where a death in the family will be unexpected. If employees give employers an opportunity to arrange alternative coverage, the process will proceed smoothly. On the other hand, it is incumbent on employers to understand that these situations often come as a surprise, and they should be flexible in giving their employees time and space to process the situation. Because the situation is so emotional, employers should expect employees to communicate this type of information using a text message or an email instead of coming to the office or making a phone call.


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What Does a Typical Bereavement Policy Look Like?

Every bereavement leave policy is a bit different. Some of the most important parts of the policy that must be spelled out include:

The number of days an employee can take off, which is usually between one and five days

Which employees are covered by the policy

What relatives are covered by the policy

Who the employee is expected to notify prior to taking their leave

Whether this time off is paid

Is Bereavement Leave Usually Paid?

No, this type of time off is usually unpaid; however, there are lots of companies that provide employees with an opportunity to use other paid time off if they would like bereavement leave to be paid. For example, employees may be able to take sick days, vacation days, or a combination of the two.

There are some companies that offer paid bereavement leave, but this is unusual. Regardless, giving employees an opportunity to take time off for a death in the family without having to worry about losing their jobs is beneficial.

Finally, there are a lot of companies that allow employees to take paid bereavement leave for a few days before offering a few extra days of unpaid leave. Some employees may decide to use vacation days or sick days after their paid bereavement leave expires.

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