When a death occurs in the family, employees may need to take time off from work. Although not required by law, companies often assist by providing paid days off in the form of bereavement or funeral leave. This allows employees to make necessary arrangements and attend the funeral, services or interment of their deceased family member.
Organizations provide bereavement or funeral leave to employees for death in the immediate family. This usually includes spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, brothers and sisters. Your company's policy will detail the relatives included in its definition of immediate family member. Most companies grant a maximum of three days of paid leave. Any additional days are charged as vacation time or can be taken off without pay. Some employees, such as contract and part-time staff, may not be eligible for this benefit.
Companies usually provide bereavement pay to support employees who experience personal loss through the death of a family member. Providing paid days off allows the employee not only to grieve, but also to attend to practical matters without worrying about his job or pay. This shows the organization’s compassion and concern for its staff. A written policy ensures consistent and uniform application to all employees.
Employees must request approval from their manager, as with other kinds of leaves. The manager may request documentation to confirm the death and your relationship to the family member. The manager usually has the discretion to allow additional days in consideration of cultural expectations, rituals, funeral location, obligations and other factors. Organizations often encourage managers to be more flexible in providing additional time off, knowing that this is a difficult period for the employee.
The Fair Labor Standards Act does not require employers to pay employees for days they do not work. No federal laws require companies to provide bereavement leave, with or without pay. A company provides paid bereavement leave out of its own volition or as part of the collective bargaining agreement. A 2008 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management showed that 90 percent of organizations provide bereavement leave.
- University of Missouri System: Human Resources Policy Manual-Funeral Leave
- Princeton University: Death in the Family
- University of Minnesota: Bereavement Leave for Faculty and Academic Professional and Administrative Employees
- Society for Human Resource Management: Examining Paid Leave in the Workplace (PDF, page 21)
Rowena Odina has been writing handbooks, manuals and employee communication pieces since 2002 as part of her human resources management functions. She specializes in writing about human resources topics. She has a certificate in human resources management from Seneca College and a certificate in payroll management from the Canadian Payroll Association.