Bereavement Leave: Does One Policy Fit All?

The loss of a loved one may force workers and employers to blend their personal and professional lives which can be sticky for all involved. Even though your organization likely has a detailed, written bereavement leave policy that provides a specific number of days of paid leave, can all situations be considered the same?

Bereavement Leave: Does One Policy Fit All?

According to the International Foundation Paid Leave in the Workplace: 2017 Survey Results, 94.2% of all responding corporate and public employee organizations provide some type of paid bereavement leave, either through a separate bereavement leave policy or a paid-time off (PTO) program for their workers.

Although most employers offer at least some type of paid bereavement leave, the number of paid days away from the office varies greatly among organizations and is dependent on the employee’s relationship to the deceased. Policies may not address whether the deceased was a parent to young children or other circumstances which may affect your worker.

[Related: FMLA E-Learning Course]

Facebook announced earlier this year, followed by Mastercard, Inc. that they were doubling the amount of time their employees receive for bereavement leave to 20 days following the death of an immediate family member and up to 10 days for an extended family member. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, who lost her husband suddenly in 2015, leaving her with two young children while working as a technology executive, has first-hand experience juggling work and family during a profound loss.

Currently, most employers cannot compete with the generous benefits provided by Facebook and MasterCard. According to the International Foundation survey, corporate and public employers provide a range of days of paid bereavement leave to employees for the loss of immediate and extended family members. The full report, to be released September 12, will include a breakdown of the number of days offered by most employers by family relationship. Here is a preview of the average number of paid bereavement days provided by our responding organizations:

The International Foundation survey provides some reassuring news for employees who may need more time off than the traditional bereavement policy offers:

  • More than four in ten (41%) respondents to the International Foundation survey indicated that, in the case of the death of a spouse, domestic partner or child, they would offer access to additional paid or unpaid leave (other than vacation) beyond what is offered under their bereavement policies.
  • Several organizations wrote in responses indicating they allow workers to use sick time, personal leave, unpaid leave and donated leave.
  • Other organizations suggested they would grant additional time off on a case-by-case basis, acknowledging the importance of allowing their employees the time to grieve.

Workers often request bereavement leave at a time of emotional distress. Pairing a well-designed policy with a supportive, caring, solutions-oriented discussion may result in a bereavement policy fit for all.

Teri Dougherty
Research Analyst at the International Foundation

Teri Dougherty, CEBS

Research Analyst at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Favorite Foundation service/product: Today’s Headlines. Teri loves getting to read all of the day’s benefits news as part of her job. Favorite Foundation conference experience: A week well spent attending the Essentials of Multiemployer Trust Fund Administration—The collection of speakers was so good she had no problem giving the program a 10 on the evaluation. Benefits related topics that interest her most: Everything wellness from disease prevention to finding ways to boost energy!  You will often find a large green drink at Teri’s desk! Personal insight: No worries of a distracted conversation with Teri—her idea of multitasking is combining a good talk with physical activity and plenty of laughter. From a lunchtime walk to swimming across a lake, she’s always on the move with a friend nearby.

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