Back to glossary

What is Bereavement leave?

Table of contents

Bereavement leave is a workplace policy that offers employees time off following the passing of a loved one. Under bereavement leave, employees are allowed time to grieve, attend funerals or memorials, and address financial or legal matters following the death.

Bereavement policies vary from company to company and are based on local regulations, cultural expectations, and company policies. Some organizations may offer bereavement leave as paid time off, while others offer it as unpaid.

Are there federal laws for bereavement leave in the United States?

There are no US federal laws that mandate bereavement leave. Depending on the company’s policy, employees may need to use paid time off (PTO) or sick leave for bereavement time.

Currently, five states (California, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington) have laws requiring employers to provide bereavement leave. The other 45 states, plus the District of Columbia, do not have mandatory bereavement leave.

Although companies typically are not required to provide bereavement leave, that may change upon hiring union workers. Unions may negotiate bereavement within the employee’s collective bargaining agreement.

Who qualifies for bereavement leave?

Usually, employee bereavement leave policies state that the person who passed away must be a close family member, like a parent, sibling, child, or spouse. Many companies, however, allow employees to use bereavement for the death of any loved one.

How long is bereavement leave?

Many countries don’t require a specific bereavement time, instead allowing employees and employers to work out the dates.
Some countries, like France (three days of paid leave) and Spain (two to four days) have national laws for bereavement. Others, like the US and UK, don’t legally mandate bereavement, but many employers provide the leave for employees.

Why should businesses provide bereavement leave?

Many companies believe providing bereavement policies are in everyone’s best interest, as giving mourners time and space to grieve will allow them to return to work in a healthy capacity. Employees who aren’t offered leave may have trouble focusing on tasks, face emotional stress, or feel less motivated to perform duties. Therefore, organizations gain more loyal, motivated employees if they provide workers the time to focus on their mental health after the loss of a loved one.

What should a bereavement policy address?

There are a few questions to consider when creating a bereavement policy. These include:

  • Who qualifies for bereavement leave?
  • What are the guidelines for immediate family members, extended family members, and friends?
  • How many days of bereavement leave is an employee eligible to take?
  • Is bereavement leave paid or unpaid?
  • How can employees request bereavement leave?
  • What documentation do employees need when requesting bereavement leave?
  • How will the payroll system track bereavement leave?
Lady in green Lady in green

The power of consolidated global payroll

Free white paper: how enterprises can streamline global payroll at scale

Download Here