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What is Bereavement Leave?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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Bereavement leave is time off from work provided to people who have recently experienced the death of a family member or friend. It is a form of employment benefit that is not guaranteed under the law. Workplaces should provide information about the benefits they offer at the time of hiring and if a workplace provides bereavement leave, the terms of the benefit will be described in an employee handbook. It is advisable for people to familiarize themselves with the benefits their employers offer to ensure that they understand how these benefits work.

In a typical bereavement leave policy, employees are offered between three and five days off with pay after the death of a family member. Many workplaces also allow people to take a single day off after the death of someone who is close, but not actually related, to the employee. Bereavement leave policies may also allow people to take vacation or sick time if they need more time off from work than is provided under the policy.

Workplaces understand that because bereavement happens unexpectedly in many cases, people cannot plan ahead for their leave. Some workplaces will allow people to take leave before someone has died if it is clear that the person is very sick. This allows people to spend time with loved ones before death. Additional time off beyond the guaranteed bereavement leave may be granted at the discretion of the employer, and is usually offered without pay.

Benefits offered to employees tend to vary depending on whether or not they have full time status. Employees who do not know how they are classified should find out so that they know what kind of benefits they can access. In the case of bereavement leave, part time employees may not be offered as much time or may not be allowed to take paid time off for a bereavement.

When applying for bereavement leave, employees should ask to receive an authorization for the time off in writing. This authorization provides clear information about the expectations of the employer so that there can be no confusion about when the employee is expected back at work. In addition, it can be used in the event of a dispute about pay for missed work or the length of the leave. Employees can ask to have the authorization signed by a supervisor and placed in their files, as well as retaining copies for their own reference.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon990402 — On Apr 20, 2015

anon264474 -- holy cow. Sorry to hear that. It sounds like you work at the same kind of horrible employer that I used to work for. I have since changed employers and have much better benefits and the people are much nicer. I hope you are able to find another employer who is more caring about their employees.

By tmac1960 — On Apr 25, 2013

Its in my employee handbook that I could take up to three days paid bereavement for when my grandmother died. I took the three paid days and even scheduled them in advance. No problems. My boss told me to take my time and use sick or vacation time if I needed more days off. I only used the three days and was back to work.

Two months later, I was written up for missing those days even though it was bereavement time. Can they do that? Isn't it against the law since it's in my handbook?

By anon274890 — On Jun 14, 2012

Most employers will give you a week. If there is a problem you can go and see your doctor and they will give you a sick note since you are unable to cope with the day-to-day running of your life. It can be dangerous to be at work while emotionally all over the place.

By anon264474 — On Apr 28, 2012

When my sister die,d my boss would not give me time off and said if I do take time off he would sack me. I hate him so much.

By ellafarris — On May 06, 2011

When my mother died, my boss gave me one week paid bereavement and three more weeks of family leave. She knew my mother & I were very close and everyone at work loved her too. The pain and stress during that time was unbearable. It was really quite difficult returning to work even after 4 weeks off. I can't imagine being given only 3 days to mourn over someone so dear to you.

By MsClean — On May 04, 2011

I was only allowed 3 days of bereavement pay when my grandmother died. I didn't know you could ask for more time. Even if it was without pay it would've been worth it. She was a nine hour drive away, so you can imagine 1st day driving, 2nd day funeral, 3rd day driving and 4th day back at work again.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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