Pasar al contenido principal Saltar al pie de página del mapa del sitio

Bereavement Leave: What Is It, How Does It Work & How To Create Your Own Policy

  • Recursos humanos
  • Artículo
  • Lectura de 6 minutos
  • Last Updated: 02/29/2024

Un gerente habla con un empleado afligido sobre la licencia por duelo

Table of Contents

Creating a bereavement leave policy helps companies support their employees by allowing them to take time away from work when a loved one dies. In addition to grieving a loss, your employee may also find themselves making funeral arrangements or handling the complexities of their relative's estate. When drafting a bereavement leave policy, it's helpful to understand any applicable laws as well as the types of leave and other resources that may assist employees during such a challenging time.

What Is Bereavement Leave?

Bereavement leave is generally described as paid or unpaid time away from work granted to employees after the passing of a family member. Employers may define bereavement leave eligibility and qualifications within a formal written policy or employee handbook to educate employees and help ensure consistency across the organization. Generally, this type of leave extends anywhere from a few days off to mourn a loved one's passing to several weeks of leave if needed to make funeral arrangements and tend to an estate. State law may dictate minimum requirements in some jurisdictions.

How Does Bereavement Leave Work?

Generally, a company will develop a written policy to inform employees of their eligibility and leave entitlement. An employee may need to request a leave for bereavement and talk with their manager when taking time away from work. As the grieving process and personal obligations related to the passing of a friend or family member can vary widely, employers may need to be flexible and consider the possibility of employees needing additional time.

What Qualifies for Bereavement Leave?

In general, a bereavement policy may indicate that the person who passed away must be a specific relation, such as a parent, spouse, domestic partner, child, or sibling. The length of the leave may also change depending on the personal relationship between the employee and their loved one. Typically, more time is given for the death of an immediate family member, but employers may allow some flexibility within a bereavement leave policy. Employers should comply with any applicable state or local laws when developing their policy, including whether they will request proof of loss, such as a death certificate or obituary, before granting a leave for bereavement.

Outside of a bereavement leave policy, companies may grant funeral leave to employees, which typically is a shorter leave, to attend the funeral or memorial services of an individual not covered under the bereavement policy.

Bereavement Pay: Is Bereavement Leave Paid?

Some companies offer paid time off, while others allow grieving employees to take unpaid leave or perhaps a combination of paid and unpaid time, subject to applicable law. Employers are encouraged to address whether bereavement leave is paid time off in their employee handbook or bereavement policy.

Bereavement Leave Laws

Although no federal law related to bereavement time exists, the employer may need to comply with state or local laws where they exist and applicable wage and hour requirements. Some collective bargaining agreements may also address employee entitlement to time off for bereavement.

While there is no federal requirement for bereavement time off, some states have enacted their own standards. States that currently require employers to provide bereavement leave include the following:

  • California: Employers with at least 5 employees, and all public employers, must grant 5 days of leave to employees upon the death of certain family members. This leave does not have to be paid, but the employee must be permitted to use any additional accrued paid leave as part of their bereavement time.
  • Illinois: The state law applies to employers with 50 or more employees and all public employers, and benefits may vary depending on the employer’s size. Review the recently expanded definitions of bereavement leave entitlements in Illinois here.
  • Maryland: Employers with 15 or more employees who grant paid leave must allow employees to use this leave for bereavement upon the death of an immediate family member.
  • Oregon: Employees of businesses with at least 25 employees may be entitled to up to 2 weeks of unpaid bereavement leave under the Oregon Family Leave Act.

Employers should check local sick and safe leave laws to review qualifying reasons for leave, which in some jurisdictions may include bereavement time.

What To Include in a Bereavement Leave Policy

As the death of a loved one may happen unexpectedly, providing a written policy in your employee handbook can help those looking for information about the process of requesting bereavement time. A bereavement policy should explain when the employee qualifies for paid or unpaid leave, how to request a leave, and the amount of time offered. Additional information, including local resources for mental health counseling, may also be included in the policy, where applicable.

  • Definition of Bereavement Leave for Your Business: The policy should explain how much time off employees may receive after losing a loved one. Additionally, it helps to state if the leave offered is paid time off, unpaid, or a combination of both. The policy may include covered relationships such as close friends and family members that qualify an employee for bereavement leave. Some policies may even cover household pets.
  • Qualification for Bereavement Leave: Besides allowing personal time to grieve the loss, the policy may include a description of reasons that qualify for a leave. These items could include traveling to a funeral, fulfilling executor responsibilities for an estate, or making funeral arrangements.
  • How to Request a Leave and Provide Proof of Loss, If Needed: Explain how employees can request a leave through email or some other form of contact with their manager or HR. If a bereavement leave proof of loss is required, the policy should instruct the employees on providing this information.
  • Length of Time Permitted for Bereavement: Define the length of time your company will grant bereavement leave, including if you will allow bereavement time to be taken at a future time after the death, such as within three months. It is best to clarify whether the leave needs to be taken consecutively or can be broken up as necessary to attend to personal affairs.
  • Payroll Processing and Reporting: Describe how the leave will be reported for payroll purposes. If the employee needs to report bereavement time differently, they should be instructed on how to complete their time and attendance report.
  • Additional Resources Available: To assist your employees through a tough time, you may want to describe additional benefits and resources, such as an Employee Assistance Program, available to those grieving the loss of a loved one. Provide contact information for support groups, mental health services, counseling, or financial resources the employer offers.

Employers are reminded to consider applicable state or local laws related to bereavement leave entitlement or collective bargaining agreements when developing their bereavement leave policy.

How To Support a Grieving Employee

Your employees may need additional support during their period of bereavement. The difficulty of keeping up with job responsibilities while grieving a personal loss can affect an individual's mental health. Prepare to offer a list of resources that may be helpful. Managers should remain flexible because the type of support needed may vary, as everyone feels a loss differently. "While policies should be applied consistently, it is important to remember that we all grieve differently, and because of that, companies should consider being flexible in providing the time off based on individual employee needs," says Kirsten Tornow, SPHR, Human Resources Coach at Paychex.

Start by expressing condolences and asking what can be done to support the employee and their family. Provide information on bereavement time and other benefits. Encourage employees to take advantage of company resources to help alleviate some of their stress.

Your support of your employees' grief processing may also preemptively ease the effects of grief that could lead to more severe health conditions down the line. Says Tornow, "Although bereavement following the loss of a loved one is not a serious health condition on its own, employers should consider the possibility that grief may lead to depression, anxiety or other physical or mental health conditions that could be covered under the FMLA or require a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers should work with an HR Professional to understand their obligations under these and similar state laws."

Giving Employees Time to Grieve Is Critical

Employers should consider offering employees time off for bereavement and the development of a formal policy to support employees mourning the loss of a loved one. A bereavement policy can help set expectations for grieving employees and alleviate some of the stress they experience during this difficult personal time. Paychex's Human Resources Business Partners can provide guidance to help you and your company on the best way to integrate bereavement leave into your existing PTO and family leave policies.

Bereavement Leave FAQs

Companies should aim to create an overall benefits package that adequately supports employees and provides the resources they need, including during a period of bereavement. Here are some commonly asked questions about bereavement leave:

  • Is Bereavement Leave Required?

    Is Bereavement Leave Required?

    While there is no federal mandate regarding this type of leave, some states and local jurisdictions may have laws requiring employers to allow employees to take time away from work following the loss of a loved one. The employer is responsible for researching and remaining compliant with any existing regulations in their state or local area.

  • Who Is Considered Immediate Family for Purposes of Bereavement Leave?

    Who Is Considered Immediate Family for Purposes of Bereavement Leave?

    A bereavement leave policy may define covered relationships, including immediate family members. If you choose to define immediate family in a policy, consider the following relationships:

    • Spouses and domestic partners
    • Parents, stepparents, and parents-in-law
    • Siblings and siblings-in-law
    • Children, including stepchildren, foster children, or a minor for which the employee serves as a legal guardian
    • Grandparents and great-grandparents
    • Someone who has a parent or child relationship with the employee but is not a biological parent or child of the employee
  • Can You Take Bereavement Leave Before Someone Dies?

    Can You Take Bereavement Leave Before Someone Dies?

    Under federal, state, and local law, covered employers may need to offer FMLA or another type of leave for caregivers that can be taken as required. Employers may also elect to allow employees to utilize other paid time off, i.e., vacation, sick leave.

  • Do All Companies Offer Bereavement Leave?

    Do All Companies Offer Bereavement Leave?

    Bereavement leave is not a federally mandated benefit, but it may be under state or local levels. While not all companies must offer time off after losing a loved one, many employers still choose to create a bereavement leave policy and offer time away from work for employees in these situations.

  • Can Bereavement Leave Be Denied?

    Can Bereavement Leave Be Denied?

    Depending on the bereavement policy, an employee's request for time off may be denied. However, when an employee struggles with grief, the manager should follow up on any denial with a discussion of additional options or leave benefits available. Flexible bereavement policies may allow more leeway to grant time off under a wider range of circumstances.

  • Is Bereavement Leave the Same As PTO?

    Is Bereavement Leave the Same As PTO?

    PTO is a general allotment of time off that is generally available to be taken for any purpose. In contrast, the purpose of a bereavement policy is to give an employee time off to grieve a loss and tend to the affairs of a loved one who has recently passed away. Additionally, bereavement time may be paid or unpaid.


Podemos ayudarlo a abordar desafíos empresariales como estos Contáctenos hoy mismo

Find out more about how to craft a leave of absence policy that gives your employees the time they need when dealing with a personal loss.

* Este contenido es solo para fines educativos, no tiene por objeto proporcionar asesoría jurídica específica y no debe utilizarse en sustitución de la asesoría jurídica de un abogado u otro profesional calificado. Es posible que la información no refleje los cambios más recientes en la legislación, la cual podrá modificarse sin previo aviso y no se garantiza que esté completa, correcta o actualizada.

Acerca de Paychex

Paychex fue fundada hace más de cuatro décadas para aliviar la complejidad de dirigir un negocio y facilitar la vida de nuestros clientes a fin de que puedan centrarse en lo que más importa.

Ofrecemos lo siguiente: