Bereavement Leave

Losing someone dear is hard enough as it is. There is no argument whatsoever. The truth remains, nonetheless, that while a bereavement leave seems like the next course of action for an organization to take for a bereaved employee; like every other employee entitlement that strips employers of a few conveniences, a bereavement leave isn’t as easy to access as it should be.

Navigating through the murky waters of grief is hassle enough; thus, this is a short guide that will equip you with all that you need to know where obtaining a bereavement leave is concerned.

What Is A Bereavement Leave?

A bereavement leave (alternately called compassionate leave); is a leave of absence that is given to  an employee who has recently experienced a loss and requires time to grief.

It is important for the singular reason that when a person suffers the loss of a loved one; they might find it hard to balance the demands of their professional and personal life. This is likely to lead to underperformance at work and debilitating mental and physical health. The leave provides the employee with the opportunity to grieve and also take care of matters relating to their bereavement – including funeral arrangements etc.

Who Is Entitled To A Bereavement Leave?

 The standard prerequisite for obtaining a bereavement leave is to be bereaved. However, they are a few clauses that might affect an employee’s entitlement; they are typical of a few organizations and include;

  • The nature of the relationship between the deceased and the bereaved employee:

immediate family losses might entitle an employee to a leave of absence, but in most organizations, extended family relatives do not count. The loss of second-generation family members will not pass for a valid reason to request a bereavement leave.

  • Length of time the employee has worked before the request:

Many organizations demand that the employee should have worked for at least 30 days before requesting for any kind of leave of absence. There may be a few exceptions in this case.

bereavement leave - funeral photi

Photo by sridgway

Are There Differing Company Policies On Taking A Bereavement Leave?

 Most organizations have a bereavement leave policy specially designed to suit the demands of their body. A lot of the policies must fall in line with the federal/ state provisions, but they differ slightly along the following lines;

  • The Amount Of Time Off :

Typically, the average length of a bereavement leave is three days. However, this could be more or less depending on the companies policy. The time off may be determined by the employee’s relationship with the deceased, or the fine place of their role in the office, which may only tolerate minimal error. Ultimately, the management decides how much time the employee is eligible to take based on their particular situation.

  • For Whom Employees May Use The Leave:

As earlier mentioned,  most organizations will only consider the application if the loss is direct and personal to the employee, and an employees eligibility would be determined by whether or not it is his/her immediate family.

  • Eligibility To Seek The Leave:

Some company policies that insist that an employee must have served for a specific length of time before requesting the leave. For some organizations, the employee must have worked for at least 90 days before management will consider theit application

  • Proof Of Eligibility And Notification Before Leave:

A few other things affect eligibility; in some cases, the employee has to produce evidence of the death of the family member. This may be in the form of an obituary or death certificate.

Other organizations also insist on having sufficient information before embarking on the leave; anything otherwise will translate to a termination of the employee’s appointment.

  • Payment/Non-Payment During The Leave:

While some companies pay during the length of the leave, some others don’t. Take note that while the leave may be a constitutional right, it is left to the employer to determine whether or not they want to pay during an employees time away and how of their entitlements they are eligible to receive.

What Are The Federal/State Provisions For Bereavement Leave?

  • Federal Law

While the Fair Labour Standards act (FLSA) does not require any employer to offer their employees a bereavement leave; the Family and Medical leave act  (FMLA) requires some employers to grant employees leaves. These may span up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for specific health and family reasons. However, the leave provided by the FMLA, but employees might be able to use FMLA leave during times of loss.

If an employer chooses to offer leave to employees; there is no obligation to pay them for the time off according to the FLSA. Thus, the employers are free to set their own workplace rules when it comes to bereavement leave

  • State Law

Most states in the US do not have bereavement leave laws. There are a few exceptions to the fact none the less. Some states allow employees to take up to two weeks of job-protected leave when a family member passes away.  Employees in these states can use the leave to make funeral arrangements, attend the funeral, or to grieve the family member’s death

For more information about your states bereavement leave policy, you should reference your state’s family leave act.

Will I Be Paid While On A Bereavement Leave?

 As previously established, payment while on leave is determined by company policies. However, they may also be influenced by state laws which protect the employees for a particular length of time. After the expiry of that period, the employee will be left entirely at the mercy of their employer or their company policy.

What If I Need Additional Time For My Bereavement Leave?

 Simply request for extra time off from your employer. This certainly doesn’t guarantee anything, it is left to the discretion of the employer to either grant the request or deny it.

To increase your chances, however, you may consider explaining to the employer why it is important for you to get some more time to grief.

If My Employer Says No To My Request To Take A Bereavement Leave…

 In specific situations, it may be up to the employer to either grant or deny an employee the request for a bereavement leave.

If the employee feels it is an infringement on his/her right, they may take their grievances up with a rights activist or request the advice of a lawyer. In any case, if the employer refuses to grant the request, the reason is likely to be in the company policy, in which case the employee may not stand much of a fighting chance.

How Do I Resume After A Bereavement Leave?

You cannot expect everything to return to normal after taking some time away to grieve. Chances are that your colleagues will welcome you with a throng of condolences and a few pity-parties. Whatever the case, make it easy on yourself by blending back into a routine. It only gets better.


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