Employers Offer Survivor Benefits to Support Grieving Employees and Family Members

It may be the most difficult challenge a person will endure in their lifetime: Facing the death of a loved one. Through bereavement leave, survivor benefits and life insurance, U.S. employers are providing support for workers and surviving family members who are experiencing a loss.

The International Foundation report, Employee Benefits Survey 2020, examines the options employers are providing.

Employers Offer Benefits to Support Grieving Employees and Family Members

Bereavement Leave

Recognizing the importance of paid time away from work during a loss, most employers, 90%, provide paid bereavement leave to their workforce. This important benefit has been consistently offered to the majority of employees for decades.

“Bereavement leave policies were originally enacted to allow employees to handle the logistics of funeral arrangements, which is why most employers still offer a fairly low number of days—typically three,” said Julie Stich, CEBS, vice president of content at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. “However, increasingly employers have realized that people often need more time to grieve. Expanding bereavement leave policies is a potentially low-cost benefit that can go a long way in supporting employees.”

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Survivor Benefits

To help grieving family members, nearly four in five employers (79%) offer some type of survivor benefit to dependents upon the death of an employee. The most common survivor benefits include:

  • Access to an employee assistance program (48%)
  • Payout of accrued vacation, sick time or other paid time off (46%)
  • Payout of accrued retirement benefits (28%)
  • Grief counseling (23%)
  • Health care benefits continuation, beyond COBRA, for dependents of employees (16%).

Smaller numbers of employers offer health care benefits continuation—beyond COBRA—for dependents of retirees (9%), funeral planning services (7%), general financial assistance (5%), or educational loans or scholarships for dependents (4%).

“Employers are offering benefits that provide both financial and emotional support,” explained Stich. “Many employers are committed to supporting mental well-being, and this includes providing mental health support for grieving employees and their family members.”

Life Insurance

More than nine in ten (95%) corporations offer paid life insurance for salaried workers, and 79% provide life insurance benefits for hourly workers. About 70% of employers use a multiple-of-earnings formula to determine the life insurance benefit, and 30% provide a flat dollar amount.

For life insurance formulas using a multiple of earnings, a benefit of one to two times earnings is common for both salaried and hourly workers. For employers that provide a flat dollar amount for life insurance, a benefit between $50,000 and $59,000 is most common.

Learn More

Employee Benefits Survey 2020 is the seventh comprehensive benefits benchmarking survey conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. The report covers pension and retirement benefits, health care benefits, voluntary benefits, paid leave, work/life benefits and more.

[Free Upcoming Webcast: Mental Health at Work: Today’s Lessons for Tomorrow’s Workforce | April 6, 2021}

Brenda Hofmann

Brenda Hofmann
Communications Manager at the International Foundation

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