How Long Is Bereavement Leave: Meaning & What You Must Know.

How long is bereavement leave
Image Credit: SHRM

After the death of a loved one, you may need to take time off work to grieve, attend funeral arrangements, or take care of other business. This is why many companies have bereavement leave plans. Learning more about them could help you figure out what to do in this situation.

It is granted in addition to paid time off and typically consists of three days, though many employers are flexible with this policy.

We explain bereavement leave, how to apply for it, and the policy’s stipulations in this article.

What Exactly is Bereavement Leave?

Bereavement leave, also known as bereaved leave, is a business policy that allows employees to take time off after the death of a family member or friend. The loss can effect your emotional condition as well as your capacity to perform at work. Companies’ policy on bereavement differ. Bereavement leave, for example, may be paid or unpaid depending on your company. Make sure you understand the company’s leave rules and ask questions about them.

When may I take bereavement leave?

When a direct family member or close relative dies, you can take bereavement leave. Some employers may also allow you to take time off after the death of a close friend or even a pet. Because sorrow impacts people in a variety of ways, businesses have realized the need for compassion and adaptability.

Organizations frequently provide varying lengths of leave time based on your relationship with the deceased individual, so read the employee handbook to learn about specific rules. Depending on their policies, you may be allowed to use this time in a variety of ways. For example, you may take three consecutive days off, or you could take two days off one week and another day off the next.

What is a normal bereavement leave policy?

Sections of a bereavement policy may include the following:

  • Guidelines: Information regarding attending the funeral, addressing financial or personal matters, and healing mentally and emotionally is typically included in this section.
  • Eligibility: The policy may specify who is eligible to use bereavement leave provisions. For example, the corporation may limit the policy to full-time employees or to situations involving the loss of close family.
  • Procedures: This section of the bereavement leave policy can help you and other team members understand how to request a leave of absence and give information about the possible benefits.
  • Duration: Bereavement leave policies may additionally specify whether and how you might convert paid leave to unpaid leave. Understanding your company’s rules might help you make better decisions and prepare for unexpected events.

How do I request bereavement leave?

With a simple email or message to human resources, you may be able to request bereavement leave. Some businesses may want you to fill out a form detailing your relationship with the deceased person, the name of the funeral home, and the length of time you’d like to request. Some companies may also need you to produce proof of your loss, such as an obituary or funeral program.

Taking leave usually only necessitates effective communication between you, your superiors, and the human resources department. It can be beneficial to notify your supervisor of the length of time you intend to be absent as well as any project details that may be useful to your team during your absence.

What is the distinction between bereavement leave and compassionate leave?

Bereavement leave and compassionate leave are often used interchangeably. In other countries, the terminology may have distinct legal implications. Compassionate leave may also permit you to take time off for reasons other than the death of a loved one, like as caring for a sick child or dealing with an urgent family situation.

What if my employer does not provide bereavement leave?

If your company does not have a formal bereavement leave policy, you may still be permitted to take time off after the death of a loved one. Some companies may request that you take time off under the company’s sick leave rules or utilize your vacation time instead. You could look into the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows for unpaid leave under specific circumstances. The FMLA does not normally provide leave for mourning, but you can request unpaid absence to care for a loved one for medical reasons.

Employers are not required by law to provide bereavement leave to their employees. Employees may be required to take paid time off (PTO) or sick leave for bereavement, depending on the company’s policy.

There are also no state legislation, and only one state, Oregon, currently has a leave statute in existence. Companies that offer bereavement or other formalized leave arrangements are required by law to honor them equally for each employee.

Companies are not normally compelled to provide bereavement leave, although this may alter if they hire union workers. As part of a collective bargaining agreement, unions may negotiate bereavement.

Employees are also exempt from taking bereavement leave. The time, if available, is theirs to utilize as they see fit. Even if the time isn’t necessary, both employees and employers should push for this crucial employee perk.

Grief can influence your physical and mental well-being. Pushing through the pain, even if it temporarily takes your mind off of things, can lead to issues from unresolved sadness later on. Anger, preoccupation, tiredness, despair, or addictive behavior are examples.

Is bereavement leave compensated?

Companies that do offer bereavement leave may offer compensated, unpaid, or a combination of the two. Because there are no federal rules governing bereavement leave, policies are provided on a case-by-case basis. A formal policy, on the other hand, helps to maintain fairness and uniformity inside the organization.

Although it is not compulsory, the majority of employers (about 88%) provide paid leave to employees who have lost a loved one. Some employers, most notably Facebook/Meta and Adobe, offer up to four weeks of paid leave. In general, anyone who works full-time for a corporation is considered an eligible employee.

Offering paid leave to employees who are grieving is not just the moral thing to do; it is also a wise business decision. Employees who feel valued and cared for at work are more likely to stay with the company. Whatever dollars are spent on paid leave are easily less than the expenses of turnover.

Employees who are encouraged to attend to their mental and physical well-being are more engaged and productive when they return, just as taking sick leave increases productivity. While any sort of assured leave is beneficial, paid leave relieves your employee of one more stress during an emotionally difficult period. It’s a subtle but powerful method to show them how much you care.

How long does bereavement leave last?

A number of circumstances determines the length of bereavement. The link between the employee and the deceased is the most typical distinction in sorts of leave.

Employees typically receive three days of bereavement leave after the death of an immediate family member. This type of leave frequently includes:

  • Parents Siblings
  • Foster children, stepchildren, and children
  • Domestic partners or spouses
  • Grandparents, in-laws, and stepparents

However, many employers provide up to two weeks of paid leave, with the possibility of additional time as an unpaid perk. Unpaid bereavement leave may have a time limit depending on the company.

It is typical to provide at least one day of paid leave to non-immediate family members, while some organizations provide more.

Many employers also provide a temporary four-hour absence to attend a coworker’s funeral or memorial service.

While the decedent’s relationship is frequently utilized to calculate how much leave an employee is entitled to, this practice is becoming obsolete. People create new and more complicated interactions as the family structure shifts away from the “nuclear” paradigm.

Some people, for example, are raised by a guardian or are the primary executor of a friend’s estate. This makes determining how much time each person needs to grieve a loss more challenging.

What exactly is proof of loss?

It is up to the specific firm, as with other factors relating to grief, to decide if they desire documentation of loss from their employee. In most cases, a death certificate suffices to establish loss. A death certificate, however, may not be obtainable depending on your relationship to the person.

Other types of documentation could include a prayer card, a funeral program, or simply the deceased’s name. When you make your leave request, human resources should be able to provide an easy answer about what paperwork is required to show the loss.

What should a bereavement leave policy include?

Bereavement policies will vary each organization, however there are essential features that all policies should have.

  • The company’s definition of bereavement leave, as well as the types of relationships that qualify (e.g., direct family members, pets, extended family, step-family, etc.).
  • How long the leave is and whether it varies depending on the relationship
  • Whether or not the leave is paid, as well as salary details
  • Determine which connected obligations, such as funeral attendance and legal planning, are eligible for bereavement time.
  • Guidelines outlining how employees can seek basic bereavement time as well as any additional time that may be required.
  • Take note of any additional advantages, privileges, or resources available to bereaved employees, such as flexible schedules or Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).
Read Also: What Is Bereavement: Definition and Work Policies (What You Need to Know)

Tips for supervisors whose staff are bereaved

  • Embrace your empathy: Support, time, and self-care are critical in dealing with and processing the impact of this type of loss.
  • Maintain your adaptability: Time is crucial in the grieving process. And sadness does not follow the rules of benefits, policies, or deadlines. Understanding the importance of team flexibility and collaboration will help your mourning team member feel supported during an already difficult period.
  • Maintain open lines of communication: Even if bereavement leave is utilized expressly after the death of a loved one, keep in mind that grief frequently precedes an event. Anticipatory grieving, for example, is prevalent when a terminal prognosis is delivered. Because you may not notice an employee is grieving, maintaining an open communication culture is beneficial.
  • Make sure employees are aware of their options: It’s difficult enough to control emotions when they’re a part of your profession. Having to suppress big life events and personal challenges also has a negative influence on well-being in the short and long term. Ensuring that employees have access to the resources they require will assist them in managing their sorrow and returning to the office in a better state than they would have been without the additional support.

The significance of allowing time for mourning

Grief alters one’s life. Even uncomplicated grieving can have an impact on a person for six months to two years on average. Symptoms and chronic stress may intensify over time in complicated mourning, leading to sadness, anxiety, and an inability to move on.

Bereavement leave gives employees the mental space they need to deal with both the practical and emotional aspects of a family member’s loss in a healthy way. It is a preventative measure that is crucial in promoting mental health both in and out of the workplace.

The good news is that any business can opt to provide bereavement leave. Employee benefits are about more than just compensation, even if the firm can only afford one paid day. They remind your staff that they are important and deserving of your attention, and that you have their back even in the most difficult of circumstances.


Losing a close relative or any family member is a very painful thing. This bereavement leave is a time off for you to put yourself back and get comforted before resuming back to work.


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