Bereavement leave: How to get paid leave

January 08, 2023  •  Reading Time: 7 min.

If you’ve recently experienced the loss of a loved one, you may be wondering how to get paid bereavement leave from your employer.

Bereavement leave is time off work that is provided to employees after the death of a family member, and is often offered by employers as a way to allow employees time to grieve and handle any necessary arrangements. While the specific details of bereavement leave policies vary by employer, many companies offer some form of paid time off for employees who have experienced the loss of a close family member.

Are you wondering what your options are?

In this article, we discuss some steps you can take to obtain paid bereavement leave and provide guidance on other forms of leave that may be available to you.

Grieving employee learning about his company's leave laws

How to get paid bereavement leave for the loss of family members

Below are some steps you can take to receive paid bereavement leave:

1. Check your company’s bereavement leave policy

The first thing you should do is check your company’s bereavement policy.

Many employers have policies in place that outline how much time off is provided for the death of a loved one and whether it is paid. If your company does offer bereavement leave, make sure you understand the details of the policy. This includes how much time off you are entitled to, whether it is paid or unpaid, and any requirements for leave requests (such as providing a death certificate or funeral program).

2. Negotiate with your employer

If your employer does not offer bereavement leave or its provisions do not meet your needs, you should negotiate for additional time off.

Before negotiating, it is important to understand your employer’s perspective. Consider their business needs and try to find a solution that works for both of you. For example, you may be able to negotiate a longer period of unpaid leave in exchange for the opportunity to work flexible hours or work from home when you return.

3. Use vacation or sick days

If your company does not offer bereavement leave or if you are unable to negotiate additional time off, you may be able to use vacation or sick days.

Usually, companies have policies that allow employees to use vacation days for any reason, including bereavement. If you have vacation days available, you may be able to use them to take time off after the death of a loved one.

📝 Note: If you do not have any vacation days available, you may be able to use sick days to get paid leave. While a sick leave is typically reserved for personal illness, some employers may allow employees to use their sick days for bereavement if they do not have any other options.

4. Make use of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for certain qualifying events, including the death of a family member.

As an eligible employee for FMLA leave, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months and have logged at least 1,250 hours of work in the past 12 months. In addition, your employer must have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of your worksite.

5. Consider other options

If none of the above options are available to you, there are a few other things you can try:

  • Short-term disability: Some employers provide short-term disability insurance as part of their benefits package. This insurance provides employees with a portion of their salary if they are unable to work due to a covered event, such as the death of a loved one.
  • Personal days: Some companies offer a certain number of personal days each year that employees can use for any reason. If your employer offers personal days, you may be able to use them to take time off after the death of a family member.
  • Leave of absence: If you are unable to take time off using any of the above options, you may be able to request a leave of absence from your employer. This is usually unpaid time off and may not be guaranteed, but such a leave can provide you with the time you need to deal with your loss.

📝 Note: It is important to keep in mind that bereavement leave policies and options may vary by state. If you are unsure of your rights or options, you may want to consult with an employment lawyer or a human resources professional.

Young employee who cannot concentrate on her work because she has to attend the funeral of her parent in law

What are other important points to consider when it comes to bereavement leave?

Here are a few other important aspects to consider:

  • Communication is key: It is important to keep your employer informed of your situation and your plans for taking time off. Make sure you understand your employer’s bereavement leave policy and follow any guidelines for requesting leave. If you are unable to follow the policy due to the urgency of the situation, be sure to explain this.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Grieving the loss of a loved one can be overwhelming, and it is important to take care of yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your employer, co-workers, or a support group. Many companies offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) that can provide resources and support for employees going through a difficult time.
  • Consider your financial situation: If you are taking an unpaid bereavement leave, it is important to consider the financial implications. Make sure you have enough savings or other financial resources to cover your expenses during your leave. If you are unable to return to work after your leave, you may also want to consider applying for unemployment benefits.
  • Take the time you need: It is important to give yourself the time you need to grieve and heal. Don’t feel rushed to return to work before you are ready. Talk to your employer about your needs and consider taking advantage of options such as flexible scheduling or working from home if they are available.
Senior employee taking a few days of bereavement leave to take time to grieve

Bereavement leave – conclusion

While many employers offer bereavement leave as part of their employee benefits package, there are also options available for employees who do not have access to bereavement leave. These options include negotiating with your employerusing vacation or sick daystaking FMLA leave, and considering other options such as short-term disability or personal days.

📝 Note: If you are unsure of your rights or options, it is always a good idea to consult with a professional for guidance.

💡 Tip: Are you not affected, but an employee or colleague? Read our guide on how to write a condolence message!

Employee and her domestic partner attending the funeral of her step parents

Bereavement leave – FAQ

What is bereavement leave?

An employee may be allowed time off during a bereavement if a family member passes away. The purpose is to allow for them to deal with their grief, go to funeral services, and handle any financial or legal issues.

How much bereavement leave is typically provided?

The amount of bereavement leave provided by employers can vary widely. Some companies grant three days of paid leave, while others offer up to five days. Some organizations also grant their employees paid leave for the funeral or any other memorial services.

Is bereavement leave paid or unpaid?

The status of bereavement leave (paid or unpaid) can vary by employer. Some companies offer paid bereavement leave as part of their employee benefits package, while others grant unpaid time off work.

Who is considered an immediate family member under bereavement policy?

The definition of “immediate family member” can also vary. Some employers define it as including only the employee’s spouse, children, and parents. Others include siblings, grandparents, and in-laws as well. Some companies also consider domestic partners and same-sex partners to be immediate family members.

Are there any laws that require employers to provide bereavement leave?

In the United States, there are no federal laws that require employers to provide bereavement leave. However, some states and localities have laws that provide for bereavement leave or other types of leave for employees who have experienced the death of a loved one.

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