The loss of a beloved person has significant consequences. Naturally, there’s the sorrow. However, there are numerous details – such as notification of relatives, arrangements for services, etc. These all need the employee’s time and focus.
Bereavement time is intended to give employees the opportunity to take time off from work to be able to concentrate on these concerns and also grieve for themselves. For some employers, however, it is not the only option. This means providing a certain number of paid time off in the event of the loss of loved ones.
For a business, if you do not have a formal grieving policy, you should consider implementing one. Before you put pencil to paper it is important to know what exactly is bereavement leave, and what trends are shaping guidelines and qualifications.
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What is bereavement leave?
Bereavement leaves are time that is specifically designed for employees who suffer the loss of an individual they love, for example, the loss of a child, spouse, or a member of the family. This type of leave for employees allows employees to grieve. It also gives the employee time to organize and participate in arrangements like funeral services, memorial services and burial ceremonies, and other occasions.
Many small to medium size companies don’t have a grieving policy, however, they ought to. A clear policy with rules detailing the benefits that employees are entitled to inform employees and their supervisors, that they are covered in the event of a difficult time. It also ensures that leave is given fairly and in a fair manner.
What should be included in a bereavement policy?
A well-organized bereavement leave policy offers managers and employees guidelines on how to manage leave during a delicate period of time. It is recommended that the policy be documented together with other forms of leave for employees (i.e. family leave, sick vacation, leave, etc.) in the employee handbook. At a minimum, a documentable bereavement policy must include the following elements:
- What are the criteria for taking bereavement leave in particular if you’ve got different rules for extended and immediate family members;
- How many days are offered to employees in the event of bereavement?
- If the leave is paid or unpaid
- Guidelines for requesting a leave of absence as well as any documentation you may need
- Which system should I make use of for requesting and tracking time off?
Is bereavement leave paid or unpaid?
There aren’t any state or federal requirements to pay wages for bereavement leaves (unless provided by the terms of a union contract). However, many businesses choose to offer paid leave to employees who grieve.
According to studies conducted by SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) The number of companies that offer paid bereavement time increased by 3 percentage points between 2014 and 2018. Today 88% of companies provide paid leave for grieving.
Based on the relationship with death, the duration of time off allowed will aid businesses in determining whether or not they could afford to give employees paid or unpaid time off for the entire amount of time or for a certain portion.
Many companies want to offer the longest time off to their employees, usually, between five and seven days, the cost of all these days off could prove costly. Employers can choose to pay for all time off for bereavement, or they might pay wages for part of the time that is taken.
For instance, if you allocate five days of leave for the loss of a close family member and have three days of the leave paid. The employee has the option of either taking whole leave and taking an unpaid portion of their time off, or limiting their time off to days that are paid.
What qualifies for bereavement leave?
A policy on bereavement should define the criteria for employee leave as well as the length of time allowed in relation to the deceased. It should also specify what obligations the employee has in the event of a need.
Naturally, death can be unexpected. It is not always possible for every employee to provide prior notice of an expected necessity for bereavement leave. However, the policies allow employees to notify their HR manager or supervisor immediately after the loss, so that leave requests are discussed and assigned and coverage for the company can be planned.
Can employers provide different employees with different bereavement leave benefits?
Employers can offer different bereavement benefits to employees of different classes provided that the difference does not lead to the individual being subject to discrimination because of a protected group. For instance, employers can allow employees who are exempt, managers, or supervisors the benefit of five (5) days free to grieve.
However, it is only 3 (3) or less for hourly or non-exempt employees. In the same way, employers can allow full-time employees bereavement leaves paid for however, they can only permit part-time employees to take leave without pay.
How long is bereavement leave?
Many companies use the same structure that adjusts the amount of time offered based on the relative. Certain organizations decide on the amount of bereavement time according to the relationship with the deceased.
For the immediate family members – spouse child, parent, or grandparent (including step-children and relatives) the most time is usually offered. In the current five-generation workplace great grandparents and grandchildren are also included in this category too.
Should I Ask for a Proof of Loss?
The loss of a loved one’s life is deeply personal. The need to provide evidence of loss is something that an employer must consider carefully and also require. It’s not uncommon for people to claim that they have suffered a loss within the family or with acquaintances.
Funeral homes typically provide documentation to prove that the employee actually lost an individual they love. The bereavement policy could include an acknowledgment of loss that is required by the employee. This could come as easily as an obituary, death announcement in the local newspaper or on the website, or even a form received at the funeral home.
Challenges after a loss
If employees lose a close family member such as a child, spouse, or parent, the grief may be only the beginning of their grief. There may be arrangements to be made in order to handle the estate, insurance, and other legal obligations that may require to be fulfilled.
For employees who are working full-time and managing their responsibilities at the same time, businesses may not be in the position to provide indefinite leave however, they are able to provide assistance when needed. They can assist with any required paperwork, including modifications that are required by insurance companies for an important life event.
Flexible schedules or work-from-home alternatives will help employees get through their life-changing event and then return to work with no additional stress and stress.
The presence of a bereavement plan implemented prior to employees suffering losses provides staff members and managers as well as businesses with guidelines regarding what should be expected and what will be made available in the case of the loss of a loved one.
The business can even seek employees’ input regarding the design of the policy. If a policy on bereavement has been in place, the company will continue to operate in the meantime so that valuable employee receives the space and time they require.