The loss of a loved one can cause intense mental and emotional stress, as well as a steep financial and logistical burden that needs to be dealt with in a timely manner.
Allowing bereaved staff time off work is essential to building an equitable workplace with a culture that cares about employees. It’s also a legal requirement in many countries.
Bereavement leave regulations differ across the globe, so understanding these labor laws is crucial to remaining compliant.
Bereavement Leave Meaning
Bereavement leave is a type of leave granted to employees following the death of a family member or loved one. The employee can use this time off work to grieve and attend funerals or memorial services. In addition to being a time of healing, bereavement leave is often used to sort out related administrative tasks.
Is Bereavement Leave Paid?
Local employment laws dictate whether bereavement leave is paid or not. A few examples of countries with regulations requiring some sort of paid leave for employees experiencing the loss of an immediate family member include:
- Australia: two days of paid leave (consecutive or separate)
- Brazil: two consecutive working days of paid leave
- France: three to seven days of paid leave depending on the relationship to the deceased
However, in other countries such as the United States and Canada, there are no federal requirements for employers to pay for bereavement leave time unless stated otherwise in a collective bargaining agreement or other employment agreement.
Keeping this in mind, many companies do choose to provide paid leave to employees as they grieve for at least a few days.
Who Is Eligible for Bereavement Leave Entitlement?
There’s no simple answer to who is entitled to bereavement leave because laws and customs vary greatly between countries. In many countries, a bereavement leave entitlement is required for biological parents who lose a child. However, it’s more common for bereavement leave to be offered to employees who lose a loved one within their immediate family.
Employers must comply with minimum labor law requirements, but they can go above and beyond them too. So if the employee isn’t entitled to bereavement leave by law, their employer can choose to offer it anyway.
Who Is Considered Immediate Family for Bereavement Leave?
There are often prerequisites that an employee must meet in order to qualify for bereavement leave. Typically the employee’s relationship to the deceased is the main deciding factor. A few examples of immediate family relationships that are more likely to qualify for bereavement leave are the death of a:
- Spouse or partner
- Direct ascendant (parent)
- Spouse’s parent
- Direct descendent (child)
It’s worth noting that the practice of using this relationship to determine the amount of leave an employee gets is quickly becoming dated. This is due to the increasing acknowledgment that a person’s most meaningful relationships may be with someone outside their immediate family.
Bereavement Leave FAQs for Employers
Below we answer more of your frequently asked questions about bereavement leave.
How Long Is Bereavement Leave?
Required bereavement leave days depend on local laws and regulations. However, research suggests that the average HR policy grants their employees between one and five days of bereavement leave. Three days seems to be the most common.
If you’d like to learn more about bereavement leave regulations in a specific country, book a call with our team.
What Is the Difference Between Bereavement Leave and Compassionate Leave?
The difference between bereavement leave and compassionate leave can be a confusing topic because the terms are often used interchangeably.
In some countries, such as the UK, there is a distinction between the two:
- Bereavement leave is specifically the period of time granted off of work following the death of a loved one.
- Compassionate leave can include leave from work following a death but can also be more widely used to care for a loved one experiencing issues such as a serious injury or terminal illness.
Despite this distinction in the UK, there is no statutory bereavement or compassionate leave requirement.
What Is Proof of Loss?
Proof of loss refers to the need for employees to present documentation or proof of death before taking bereavement time off. A few examples of documentation are obituaries, death certificates, travel documents, funeral documents, etc. It’s up to your company (and local laws) to determine whether employees are required to show “proof” before taking leave.
Requiring proof of loss can be uncomfortable and may cause employees to view the policy as insensitive. If your company requires proof of loss, try to make it as easy and painless as possible for employees to submit it.
How to Ask for Bereavement Leave
It’s necessary for employees to inform their employer before taking bereavement leave. Here’s how the process usually works:
- Review official bereavement leave policies: It’s very common for companies to have clear bereavement leave policies written to ensure all employees are treated in a fair and consistent manner. Employees who have experienced a loss should consult their employee handbook to determine company requirements and the process for requesting bereavement leave.
- Give ample notice: While not always possible, it’s helpful for employees to give as much notice as possible so their employer can plan ahead for potential time off. If an employee has a loved one who’s not in good health, it may be helpful for them to disclose the situation to their employer, if they feel comfortable doing so.
- Anticipate needs and make a timeline: Employees should be encouraged to take a step back and make a list of what they need, anticipating things like mental health, finances, and any other factors. It’s not uncommon for grieving employees to use a mixture of bereavement leave and sick leave, as well as vacation leave or other annual leave days.
- Put a request in writing: It’s important for both employees and employers to have a clear paper trail for reference. Employees typically submit a formal written request for bereavement leave, as well as any necessary documentation such as proof of loss. This should be done in conjunction with a face-to-face meeting or phone call with their manager or an HR professional whenever possible.