Bereavement Leave Policies – Helping Adjust to a New Normal

As part of Grow & Lead’s annual review of policies, we are reviewing our bereavement leave policy.  Do you have one?  Here is what the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) has to say on the topic from their September 2017 issue of “HR Magazine”:

The vast majority of employers provide only two to four days of bereavement leave, depending on whether the deceased is a child, spouse, parent or extended family member. On average, four days are allotted for the death of a spouse or child, according to the Society for Human Resource Management 2016 Paid Leave in the Workplace Survey. Three days are typically given for the loss of a parent, grandparent, domestic partner, sibling, grandchild or foster child. Only one or two days are usually offered for the death of a spouse’s relative or an extended family member (aunt, uncle, cousin). And, for the death of a close friend or colleague, most companies don’t extend any leave at all.

Read the full article here:

Can you imagine losing your parent, spouse, or child and being required to return to work after three days?

Bereavement leave is starting to get more attention on the national level largely due to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s efforts to increase their policy after the unexpected loss of her husband in 2015.  Since then, Facebook has increased their leave for up to 20 days.  Most organizations, especially small nonprofits, cannot afford to provide that much leave, but it does speak to the need to ask what can be provided.

The Fair Labor Standards Act does not require payment for unworked time, so bereavement leave is optional support that can be provided by an employer.  In creating or reviewing a policy, the following should be considered:

  • Will it be paid leave?
  • What is our definition of “immediate family?” Will there be any considerations beyond that? For example, a close friend?
  • Do leave days need to be consecutive?

A well-thought out bereavement leave policy offers support for those we work closely with and who work hard to support our missions–at a time when they need it most.

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