The Typical Human Resources Policy for Family Death Leave

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Employers understand that workers need time off to mourn the death of a family member or a close family friend; however, the law does not require it. Because the law does not require it, many employers do not promote bereavement leave in the same way they do extensive vacation plans or time off to vote.

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Bereavement leave is an employer’s compassionate response to the sadness caused by loss and the necessity for an employee to take time off work to attend to family obligations, possible travel — and then coping with personal challenges during this challenging period.

The Process and the Result of Time Off for Family Death Leave

When a close relative passes away, the sorrowful employee should contact her manager, supervisor, or the human resources department as soon as possible.

Funeral preparations and funeral and memorial ceremonies will require the employee to take time off away from the workplace.

To complete the ability to give death leave to employees, many companies or businesses have begun to request proof of death — such as an obituary or a funeral program. When you lose a family member or close friend — a request to provide proof sometimes appears harsh or rude. Years ago, I had a coworker who claimed the passing of loved ones over and over — then bragged to us on the side that “grandma was alive and well.” So, upon reflection, it’s not hard to understand why an employer may determine that company policy will require some type of proof.

However, in most cases, the corporation does not demand written verification or proof of death..

Time and Friendship are Two Crucial Factors in Life.

The amount of paid leave for an employee is not an entitlement, and it’s not the law. The time employers will allow an employee to take off with pay — or even without pay can vary. Employers often determine time off by the employee’s connection with the dead family member. Sometimes friends are not considered a close enough relation for you to be able to take time off work.

Many companies provide three days of paid time off every year, with other companies offering up to five days of paid time off with no explanation. These days are separate from your vacation days — and are sometimes, nowadays, they are called mental health days. You can use these days in the case of a death.

An Example Policy for Time Off

An example policy may read as follows:

“When a member of one’s immediate family passes away, the company will provide up to five days of paid time off. The immediate family comprises a child’s parents, stepparents, stepchildren, and step-siblings, among other people. When an extended family member passes away, the company provides three paid days off. There are aunts and uncles and grandparents and grandchildren and in-laws and sisters and brothers-in-law in the extended family.

Workers who lose a parent or other extended family member are entitled to the same five days paid leave as their coworkers who lose a close friend or relative. Whether the state recognizes same-sex weddings or whether the company offers equal benefits for domestic partners, the employer pays the same amount of bereavement leave irrespective of whether the domestic partnership is recognized. If you are traveling out of town to prepare for or attend the burial of a loved one, you may be allowed more time.”


Employees who must do lengthy chores in connection with a family member’s death, such as executor obligations, may seek additional time off. Employees who need a 30-day leave of absence owing to personal or business responsibilities may request it from their company. Unpaid leave may be a requirement if they do not have enough vacation days.

Suppose an employee meets the requirements for obtaining a personal leave of absence and the leave does not exceed 30 days. In that case, the employee may be eligible to return to their previous post or a comparable position with a similar salary, perks, and responsibilities.

Time Off Permitted Under the Family and Medical Leave Act

If an employee needs additional time off to cope with grief or health concerns due to a family member’s death, they may be eligible for FMLA leave. This provision kicked in when the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) became law.

Under the FMLA, the amount of time is 12 weeks that an employee may take. This is unpaid leave and is time the law protects. An employee can be gone that amount of time without losing their job — but this situation generally requires proof of the family members death.

During an employee’s FMLA leave, the law requires the employer to continue providing group health benefits.

Laws That Have an Impact

It is common for small businesses to have tight, family-like relationships with their staff. According to a 2016 SHRM survey on paid leave choices, 90 percent of employers provide bereavement leave.

It is possible to take up to three days of paid leave for immediate family members, one day for extended family members (such as aunts and uncles), and four hours of paid leave for colleagues under this policy.

Small businesses may be more willing to grant prolonged leave because they are more concerned about their employees and families and the mental and physical consequences that occur in a stressful situation such as death.

On the other hand, many small businesses can afford more flexible policies, as long as the flexibility does not imply favoritism or prejudice on their behalf.

This Means You.

There’s one more point and it’s a small one — but important. Death is going to happen to everyone and when a close family member or friend passes an employee may need support. As an employer, you can help out your employees by being sensitive in this situation. Few employers will regret the kindness they show to their employees at the time of their bereavement. How you react and treat your employee will always be remembered.

Image Credit: Nathan Cowley; Pexels; Thank you!

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