Bereavement leave is time off granted to employees that have lost close family. This leave is intended to give employees time to grieve and attend any services such as a funeral or memorial.  

Bereavement leave is only required by law in five states, including California, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland, and Washington. In all other states, it is not required for employers to offer bereavement leave, either paid or unpaid, however, offering bereavement leave can be a great way to show your employees that you value their mental health and life outside of work.  

Offering bereavement leave allows employees to spend time with their close family and friends and grieve. This will increase the productivity and mental health of your employees when they return to work. Most companies offer bereavement leave for around 3-5 days if the death includes close family (e.g. spouse, parent, sibling, grandparent, or child). If the death is a distant friend or relative, some companies ask that you use vacation or personal days off to attend the services.  

How to support your employees when they are experiencing grief  

While it may be difficult to determine the best thing to say or do when an employee is grieving, anything is better than doing nothing. Here are some ways you can show your support to an employee who has recently lost a loved one:  

Express your condolences: While it is unlikely that expressing your condolences will change how your employee feels, it will let them know that you care and are genuinely sad about the event. Expressing condolences can go a long way and let your employee know that you are paying attention to their life outside of work.  

Ask your employee what information they want shared: After the death of an employee’s family member has occurred, it is possible that co-workers and leadership will want to help donate to the funeral or simply give their condolences. However, instead of allowing gossip to spread around the company, it is best to ask the employee if they would like their peers to know about the death or if they would rather it not be talked about.   

Let them know that family comes first: Express to the employee that their current situation comes first, and that work can wait. This will help the employee feel less guilty about missing work and being behind on tasks.  

Be as flexible with bereavement leave as possible: If the death is a close family member, try to be flexible with leave. If possible, give the employee the option to work from home for a few days/weeks to give them time to be around family and work when they feel up to it.  

Allow part-time work: After the bereavement leave is over, it is possible that your employee may not be ready for their full-time work schedule. Consider allowing the employee to work part-time for a few weeks to give them time to grieve but also allow them to slowly get back into the workflow.  

Help cover the workload: Ask co-workers to help pick up some tasks and assignments. This will help reduce stress when the employee returns to work, and it will let them know that their co-workers were willing to help them in a time of need.  

Unfortunately, many employees will experience the death of a loved one during their work life. It is important for employers to know how to handle the situation and determine ahead of time whether they will offer bereavement leave or not. If you have any questions regarding bereavement leave, reach out to us at humanresources@helpside.com.