All You Need to Know About Bereavement Leave

Andrew Buck August 10, 2021

The loss of a loved one is an unfortunate reality for almost all of us at some point in our lives. 

Not only do we have to cope with the emotional distress, there are also considerations like arranging the funeral, handling financial matters, and more.

This is all the more difficult to deal with when your employees are also worried about showing up and being productive at work. That’s why companies traditionally offer bereavement leave, to allow employees the time they need to grieve and settle affairs.

In this guide, we will discuss all you need to know about bereavement leave. We’ll discuss what it is, if there are any bereavement laws in your area you need to be aware of, how to create a policy for it, and we’ll also answer some frequently asked questions.

What is Bereavement Leave?

Bereavement leave is the time off you provide to your employees when there is a death in their family. For example, if one of your team member’s spouse, partner, child, or parent passes away.

You give them time away from work to deal with the personal pain of losing a loved one and handle any logistical issues. 

They might have to notify family members, arrange for the funeral and any documents associated with the death, sort out the will if there is one, and more.

Needless to say, this is not the ideal time for them to be working on critical work tasks. 

And that is why many companies provide bereavement leave. It allows the employees to take some time and space to take care of some things before coming back and focusing on work again. 

But how many days should you allow your team to take off when there is a loss in their family? Are you required to provide bereavement? 

In the next sections, we’ll cover these topics, and a lot more.

Bereavement Leave Laws

The first thing you need to learn is if there are any laws regulating bereavement leave in the area where your business is based. 

You also need to learn about bereavement laws in any other jurisdictions where you have team members.

You need to know the laws because that’s the baseline of your bereavement leave policy. You obviously need to provide the minimum number of days as required by law. 

And then you can craft your policy on top of that according to what you think works best for your team, what other companies are providing in your industry, locality, etc. (more on that below).

You can search for bereavement leave laws in your locality to learn more, but here we will list some of the major jurisdictions, both in the United States and internationally.

United States Federal Bereavement Leave Laws

There are no federal laws in the United States that require you to provide bereavement leave days. It’s down to each individual state to rule on whether or not bereavement leave is a legal requirement.

Here are some of the major U.S. states that don’t legally require employers to provide bereavement days off.

Oregon Bereavement Leave Law

Oregon is the only state in the U.S. that mandates employers to provide days off for some specific companies. 

In 2014, Oregon passed the Family Leave Act, which applies to companies that employ more than 25 people.

In these companies, the following qualifying employees are eligible for bereavement leave under Oregon’s regulations.

Qualifying employees can take up to 2 weeks of leave for the passing of each family member, as long as they take time off within 60 days of the passing of their loved ones.

For all the details about Oregon’s Family Leave Act, you can check out the Oregon Legislature website.

United Kingdom Bereavement Leave Laws

The United Kingdom does not specify how many bereavement days you must provide for employees. 

But the law does state that employees are allowed to take off a “reasonable number of unpaid days” when a family member passes away.

Below, we will cover more information on how to decide how many days to provide, and how to create a bereavement leave policy that is both compassionate and feasible for your business.

Germany Bereavement Leave Laws

There are no laws specifying a minimum number of days an employer must provide for bereavement days in Germany. 

France Bereavement Leave Laws

Employees are entitled to the following bereavement days in France.

Spain Bereavement Leave Laws

It is customary in Spain for employees to receive the following time off from work for mourning the loss of a family member.

Singapore Bereavement Leave Laws

No bereavement leave laws. The number of days you provide will depend on the employment contract.

India Bereavement Leave Laws

No legal requirements for bereavement are mandated by the government, but most companies provide around 7 days.

New Zealand Bereavement Leave Laws

Typical leave for bereavement is around 3 days but might vary depending on the following.

Philippines Bereavement Leave Laws

If you have employees in the Philippines, then they would get 3 days off when one of the following family members passes away. 

Is Bereavement Leave Important?

Even though most localities don’t require you to provide bereavement leave by law, around 94 percent of U.S. employers provide bereavement leave. And the trend is growing towards providing paid bereavement days. 

Allowing them some time off is not only the compassionate thing to do, it also helps create a more meaningful relationship with your team members.

When they get back to work after their leave, be sure to spend some time with them and check in to see how they’re holding up. You can consider allowing them to work from home, if that’s a possibility – or, ask if you can support them in other ways as they ease back into their routine.  

A few relatively simple steps will show that you care about your team’s wellbeing and it may even provide them some comfort during what is most likely an extremely difficult period.

How to Create a Bereavement Leave Policy for Your Business?

As with all other types of leave, you will want to make sure that your bereavement leave policy is clear and easy to understand for all your team members. 

You also want to make the process of requesting bereavement leave as simple as possible.

Further reading: learn everything you need to know about setting up a leave policy for your business.

What You Should Include in Your Bereavement Leave Policy

Here are a few things to consider when creating your bereavement leave policy.

How Many Bereavement Days?

How many bereavement days should depend on a couple of factors.

Your time off policy (including bereavement leave) can play a role in the employees you’re able to attract and retain in your business. 

Vacation days and flexible working hours rank only below healthcare when it comes to the benefits employees desire the most.

So, be sure that your leave policy is at least on par with your competitors.

Which Family Members Bereavement Leave Applies For

Your leave policy should specify which family members bereavement leave applies for. In most cases, it would apply to immediate family members like parents, spouses, children, and siblings. 

In some cases, bereavement also covers nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, grandparents. 

You could also go a step further and provide some time off for close friends, neighbors, etc.

Is Bereavement Leave Paid or Unpaid?

Decide if bereavement leave is paid in unpaid. You could also create a hybrid policy, where a certain number of days are paid, and any time off beyond that is unpaid.

Or you could specify that the leave is paid for immediate family members, but unpaid for relatives, friends, etc.

How to Request/Track Bereavement Absences

Your leave policy should also include the following.

Bereavement Leave Policy FAQs

Let’s look at the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about bereavement leave.

Is bereavement leave paid leave?

In most cases, whether bereavement leave is paid or unpaid would depend on your time off policy and the contract you have with an employee.

A handful of jurisdictions like France might require you to provide a certain number of paid bereavement days, but in most places, there are no laws that specify that you must provide paid bereavement leave.

But as mentioned before, you should craft a time off policy that is competitive to attract and retain the best performers, and you should look into what others in your industry are providing their employees.

How much bereavement leave should I give?

The number of days would depend on your company’s policy and if there are any local laws, but it is typically between 1-7 days, with the vast majority of businesses providing around 3 days of bereavement leave.

What constitutes an immediate family member?

Technically speaking, immediate family members include the following.

But in the context of bereavement leave, it can be more flexible. Immediate family can also include aunts and uncles, grandparents, in-laws, etc.

Does the employee need to give proof of their bereavement?

Generally, it might not be the best idea to require proof for bereavement leave, especially if your company values a culture that is based on trust and encouraging employees to take ownership of their responsibilities.

It is already a stressful enough time for them, and the added burden of having to provide proof can be perceived as a lack of compassion. 

But if you feel like requiring proof is appropriate for your company, be sure to make the process as simple as possible, and communicate the requirements clearly in your time off policy.

All You Need to Know About Bereavement Leave: In Summary

Losing someone close to you is a tough thing for anyone to deal with. It’s even more difficult when the person also has to contend with the pressures of work, which is why bereavement leave exists.

In most locales, bereavement leave is not a legal requirement, but offering it to your staff will help you build a postive work environment, and help your employees through the most difficult times of their life.

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