Do Federal Employees Get Bereavement Leave for the Death of an Aunt?

by Wilhelm Schnotz; Updated September 26, 2017

Because there are countless permutations of family structures in the United States, specifically defining each one in a leave policy for an employer as large as the federal government is impossible. Because of this, the Office of Personnel Management doesn’t have a specified policy pertaining to bereavement leave following the death of several extended-family relations, such as aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. Nonetheless, the office allows federal employees to take bereavement leave following the death of an aunt.

Family Members' Deaths

Federal bereavement leave policies allow a federal employee to take bereavement leave following the death of “any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” In the June 2010 issue of “The Federal Register,” The Office of Personnel Management revealed it takes a broad view on what qualifies as a family relationship under this definition, as it allows employees to take bereavement leave for the death of aunts, uncles or any other close relative.

Leave Policies

Federal employees aren’t granted a separate block of bereavement leave each year. Instead, an employee may use accumulated sick leave for bereavement leave purposes. Each year, employees may only use 140 hours -- equivalent to 13 full work days -- of sick leave for qualifying bereavement purposes. Agencies may request administrative evidence to support the claim the leave was taken for bereavement purposes, particularly if employees take more than three days, although supervisors may request evidence for all sick leave used for this purpose.

Administrative Evidence

If the agency requires an employee to provide administratively acceptable evidence to support the bereavement leave, official documents such as a copy of a death certificate may suffice. Each agency is allowed to determine its own standards of evidence. The Office of Personnel Management allows agencies to let workers self-certify their bereavement leave, in which case supervisors essentially take the employee’s word that the leave was used for bereavement purposes. Employees who cannot produce evidence when requested aren’t granted sick leave.

Family and Medical Leave Act and Bereavement

The federal Family Medical Leave Act doesn’t extend to bereavement leave. Because of this, employees who don’t have enough sick leave remaining to use for bereavement purposes, or have spent their annual allowance on for family medical and bereavement leave may not claim FMLA leave to cover funeral arrangements or bereavement leave following the death of an aunt or any other family member.

About the Author

Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.