It may be the most difficult challenge an employee will endure in their lifetime: Facing the death of a loved one. Through bereavement leave and employee assistant program (EAP) offerings, U.S. employers are providing support for workers during a devastating time, but is it enough?

Is It Time to Rethink Your Bereavement Leave Policy?

Currently, most U.S. organizations (94%) offer paid bereavement leave through a separate policy or as part of a paid-time-off (PTO) plan. In 2016, 83% provided the leave as a paid offering. When creating consistent guidelines for paid leave policies, predicting the potential impact of a loss, regardless of the relationship to the employee, presents a major challenge for employers.

For bereavement leave after the death of a spouse, organizations offer:

  • Two days – 2%
  • Three days – 56%
  • Four days – 5%
  • Five days – 29%
  • Six or more days – 5%

Organizations report similar policies for the death of a child or parent:

One day of leave is commonly provided to attend the funeral of an aunt, uncle, niece or nephew.

  • Two days – 3%
  • Three days – 60%
  • Four days – 5%
  • Five days – 27%
  • Six or more days – 3%

For some additional insight, I chatted with Julie Stich, CEBS, Associate Vice President of Content at the International Foundation. She explained that historically, bereavement leave policies have been structured to handle the logistics of funeral and related arrangements, which is why we’re seeing three days as the most prevalent plan. However, employers are recognizing that employees need more time to process—to grieve—the devastating loss of a spouse, child or parent, leading to more generous policies.

For part-time workers, more than one-half (63%) of organizations provide paid bereavement leave on a full-coverage or prorated basis.

Beyond offering paid time off via bereavement leave, 85% of organizations offer an EAP, 63% provide mental health coverage and 22% offer stress management programs.

Julie added that expanding bereavement leave policies is a potentially low-cost benefit that can go a long way in supporting employees.  The way a person responds to the loss of a close loved one differs from person to person, but such a loss is always devastating. An employer that offers extra time off shows empathy and compassion.

Findings above were drawn from Paid Leave in the Workplace: 2017 Survey Results, Flexible Work Arrangements: 2017 Survey Results and Workplace Wellness Trends: 2017 Survey Results.


Anne Patterson
Social Media and Communications Associate at the International Foundation

Anne Patterson

Communications Associate at the International Foundation

Favorite Foundation service/product: The innovative member survey efforts and results from the research team.

Benefits-related topics that interest her most: Health care, nontraditional wellness initiatives, employee benefit communication.

Personal Insight: It’s all about balance with Anne. She loves to run and enjoys a good culinary adventure. She’ll jump at the chance to travel or to spend fun times with family and friends, but she’ll also take time to catch her breath with an occasional Netflix binge or diving into a classic novel.

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