Bereavement Leave (Laws, Time Off, Pay, & More)

In certain circumstances, such as when a close relative has died, an employee can take time off work. This is what's known as bereavement leave. This type of leave often allows employees to grieve away from the workplace without any associated professional consequences. However, there are some stipulations. Read more or request an attorney to help.

What Is Bereavement Leave?

In certain circumstances, such as when a close relative has died, an employee can take time off work. This is what's known as bereavement leave. This type of leave often allows employees to grieve away from the workplace without any associated professional consequences. However, there are some stipulations.

What Exactly Is Bereavement Leave?

As discussed, when someone an employee knows, has died, they are able to take time off work. This type of leave is specifically referred to as bereavement leave, and typically applies to close relatives.

This leave can be used for a variety of reasons, including the need to make funeral arrangements, attend a funeral, manage and organize post-death related tasks, and of course, grieve. Although many employers allow employees to take this type of leave, there is no federal law in-place that requires this type of leave.

Currently, the only exception to this rule is in the state of Oregon. Within this state, employers are required to provide their employees with this type of leave. Of the Oregon-based businesses that have more than 25 employees, eligible employees must be given bereavement leave when applicable.

Bereavement Leave Eligibility

To become eligible, an employee must have worked a minimum of 180 days, averaging 25 hours per week during those 180 days. For each deceased family member, an employee receives two weeks of leave, and this leave period must be taken within 60 days of the death.

Outside of Oregon, bereavement leave is at the discretion of the employer. This means that such policies and practices can vary from company-to-company. However, there are select circumstances when an employer must provide bereavement leave. For example, if this practice is outline in an employee contract or is included in a collective bargaining agreement, then an employer may be required to follow such policies.

For those who seek bereavement leave, it can be challenging. This request tends to blur the lines between one's personal and professional life, making it a complicated situation. Although an employer may not want to lose an employee, based on the company's productivity levels, a grieving employee may not be able to perform as they usually do.

Bereavement Leave Laws

Overall, when employers do offer bereavement leave, each situation varies in regards to the amount of time an employee is allowed off, as well as whether or not they will be paid during this period. In cases where employers do not grant bereavement leave, an employee may need to use their sick leave to grieve the loss of a loved one.

As stated by the U.S. Office of People Management (OPM) employees are allowed to take a total of 104 hours or 13 days of sick leave each year. During an employee's sick leave, they can:

  • Make all necessary arrangements regarding a funeral
  • Care for a family member in need, such as those who are mentally or physically incapacitated
  • Help a family member who requires medical, dental, or optical care

Who is considered immediate family for bereavement leave?

In this case, the OPM defines a family member as any of the following:

  • A child and/or stepchild
  • A spouse, including domestic and same-sex partners
  • A parent, a step-parent, or a parent-in-law
  • A grandparent
  • A sibling
  • Any foster children
  • Guardianship relationships

The OPM has also established rules that allow employees to take up to three work days off in order to attend and/or arrange a funeral. This applies only when the individual is an immediate family member and was killed in combat while serving in the Armed Forces. Police officers and firefighters are also allowed to take paid leave in order to attend a colleague's funeral who had been killed on the job.

Developing a Bereavement Leave Policy

All employers must develop a clear policy in regards to their bereavement practices and procedures. This policy should focus on scenarios that involve an employee and a family member that has passed away. In addition, employers should outline whether or not employees will be allowed time off when a loved one who is not an immediate family member passes away.

The policy itself should include language that clearly defines whether or not an employee needs to be working full-time at the time in order to be eligible. Also, all considerations regarding pay during this leave period should be well-defined.

Need help setting up a Bereavement Leave Policy? Thervo has a trusted network of over 5,000 lawyers to properly handle this for you. Get free estimates from employment law attorneys near you.

On average, most companies provide a total of three paid days off regarding the death of a family member or one day off when the death of another relative or close friend occurs. However, these policies can change depending on the circumstances, as well as the company itself. For example, many companies will allow employees to take time off to make arrangements, but this leave is unpaid.

Each case is unique, especially when a family member dies far away from the employee's workplace. There are also instances when complex legal affairs make bereavement leave more difficult. Moving forward, keep the following possible circumstances in mind if you are an employer.

Notification of Bereavement Leave

If an employee needs to take bereavement leave, there should be a simple, efficient system in place that allows them to notify their employer. Most often, employers will offer the same system used for other unrelated leave requests. However, since this type of leave is such a sensitive issue, you may want to develop a separate notification of leave system.

To ensure that this leave is not abused, you can also request proof that the employee is using this leave period as discussed. For example, employees may provide you with a prayer card, an obituary, or a program from the funeral. You are also allowed to request information on who the deceased individual was and how they're related to the employee.

Understanding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Based on the FMLA, some employers are required to provide 12 weeks of unpaid time off each year. This leave is intended for a range of health and family issues. Although this act does not specifically address bereavement leave, employees are able to use their mandatory FMLA leave if a family member passes away.

When FMLA leave is unpaid, as an employer, you must legally continue to cover that employee's health insurance coverage while they are away on leave.

What about small businesses?

Small businesses tend to have few employees. However, they also often operate as a more tight-knit organization. Due to the nature of these close relationships, small businesses often provide long periods of bereavement leave in comparison to larger organizations. If you are a small business owner, it is still important that you develop a clear bereavement policy to ensure fewer disruptions.

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If you currently require assistance regarding bereavement leave, you can get free estimates from employment law attorneys near you.

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