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.