Bereavement Leave Definition

Bereavement leave is the time of paid or unpaid leave given to employees by employers after the death of a close family member. The meaning of “close family member” can vary, although typically it includes parents, siblings, children, spouses, and sometimes even extended family members like grandparents or in-laws. The purpose of bereavement leave is primarily to give the employee the time they require to grieve, attend to funeral arrangements, and attend to other personal affairs related to the death.

What Are The Types Of Bereavement Leave?

Bereavement leaves reflect the understanding and compassion that an organization has for the emotional difficulties of their employees. The policy of giving leaves is extremely important in offering employees the time required to grieve and handle personal affairs after a loss. Depending on the culture and the industry to which the organization belongs, the nature of the leave can be quite varied:

Paid Bereavement Leave

Paid bereavement leave allows employees time off without losing their regular pay. This kind of leave is usually given by employers who believe that they need to support their employees financially during a difficult time. Paid leaves ensure that employees can focus on their personal matters without the stress of money issues.

Unpaid Bereavement Leave

Unpaid bereavement leave gives employees time off without pay. While this still gives the required time to grieve and attend to personal matters, employees might want to consider their financial condition if they take unpaid leave. Some employers may also give a mix of paid and unpaid leaves, depending on the duration of the leave requested.

Extended Bereavement Leave

Extended bereavement leave goes beyond the standard leave duration, usually provided to those employees who want more time to cope with their loss. This kind of leave would be available in cases of significant grief or when extensive travel or arrangements are required. Extended leave policies can vary, with some organizations allowing employees to use accrued vacation or sick leave to take additional time off.

Different industries may have different approaches to bereavement leave. For example, tech companies may give more extended leave in policies due to their employee wellness programs, while industries like retail or manufacturing might provide a regular duration of leave because of operational demands. Understanding these variations can help employees set realistic expectations based on their industry.

Who Is Eligible for Bereavement Leave?

Qualification for bereavement leave can generally depend on the employer’s policy and who the employee has lost. Generally, full-time employees are entitled to bereavement leave, although part-time employees are often given it in many organizations. Bereavement leave has been mandated through legislation in some regions, ensuring that all employees are eligible for time off when someone in their family has passed away. However, in all cases, specific details would vary. These include who is considered a family member, how many days of leave they get, and more. The local laws and company policies should be known by both an employer and an employee concerning bereavement leave.

Is Bereavement Leave Legally Required?

Whether bereavement leave is legally required depends on the country or state in which the company operates. In some places, there are laws mandating a minimum amount of bereavement leave, while in others, it is left to the employer’s discretion.

Bereavement leave is widely different in many countries of the world. While the UK, for example, has definite rules on compassionate leave, the United States lets the employer define it to a great extent. All these differences must be understood when multinational companies are looking to operate under a myriad of legal frameworks.

Contractual vs. Statutory Bereavement Leave

The internal policies of the employer define Contractual Bereavement Leave. It often provides more generous terms than statutory leave and can include additional paid leave, extended time off, and broader definitions of family members. Statutory Bereavement Leave is defined by law and includes the minimum entitlements that an employer must provide. The laws provide for all eligible employees with a baseline amount of leave, which varies across jurisdictions.

Bereavement leave laws are very different in different countries and states. In the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act does not mandate bereavement leave, so the decision is left up to the employers, although some states have enacted laws of their own. On the contrary, in the UK, statutory parental bereavement leave is mandatory, with up to two weeks off after the death of a child under 18.

Legislation on issues about bereavement leave is evolving. For instance, New Zealand recently initiated paid bereavement leave for miscarriages and stillbirths in 2021, setting the precedent for compassionate leave policies. Similarly, there have been ongoing debates in the U.S. Congress about extending FMLA to include bereavement leave, reflecting the growing recognition of the need for such policies. This is important information for HR to make sure they not only comply with the laws but also go ahead and make provisions for employee needs during the time of loss.

How Long Is Bereavement Leave?

The length of bereavement leave can vary based on the employer’s policy and the employee’s needs. Standard bereavement leave typically ranges from 3 to 5 days, but some companies may offer more or less time depending on the circumstances.

A significant amount of survey data reflects that many employees believe the typical three to five days of bereavement leave is inadequate for coping with the loss of a close relative or dealing with associated responsibilities, such as funerals, estate matters, and family care. For example, one recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that over 60% of employees indicated that at least one week of paid leave would be more appropriate to manage their grief and obligations effectively.

This feedback has led to a noticeable shift in how companies approach bereavement leave. Progressive organizations are increasingly adopting more compassionate policies, extending leave durations, and including flexible options that allow employees to return to work gradually. Some are even offering bereavement support services like counseling and assistance with funeral arrangements, recognizing the profound impact grief can have on overall well-being and productivity.

As society’s attitudes toward grief and bereavement evolve, more employers are recognizing the importance of supporting employees during these critical times; it reflects a commitment to employee well-being that goes beyond traditional benefits. This shift not only helps individuals manage their grief more effectively but also creates a more compassionate and loyal workplace culture.

What To Include In A Bereavement Leave Policy

Creating a comprehensive bereavement leave policy would be very instrumental in supporting an employee during a crucial time of their life. A properly structured policy ensures that employees have no confusion in their minds regarding benefits and the procedure to get time off, which can significantly reduce stress during a difficult period.

Key Components of a Bereavement Leave Policy:

  • Eligibility Criteria: Clearly define who is eligible for bereavement leave, and the stipulations related to a part-time and full-time employee
  • Duration and Pay: Specify the number of days of the leave and if it is paid or unpaid. Consideration may be made regarding the relation with the deceased
  • Application Process: Specify the steps that an employee needs to follow to avail of bereavement leave and the documentation to be submitted
  • Support and Resources: Provide information on additional support available to the employees, including counseling services or flexible working arrangements on return
  • Flexible and Inclusive Policies: The policy should be flexible enough to respect all the different family structures and cultural practices on account of bereavement

Now enhance the Policy with practical insights. For instance, a bereavement leave policy might spell out the steps to submit a leave request via the company’s HR portal, including evidence required, such as an obituary or funeral notice. Giving employees a checklist for bereavement leave can demystify the process and make them feel better. Also, including employee testimonials or case studies who have gone through such a process can help others understand what the policy means in practice and reassure them about what their company will offer during such difficult times.


Bereavement leave is a very important benefit that helps employees get through one of life’s most difficult experiences. Clear, compassionate, and comprehensive policies mean employers are well on their way to supporting their employees’ well-being and a positive, empathetic workplace culture. Understanding the different components of bereavement leave—from legal requirements to best practices—ensures that both employers and employees can manage these difficult times with dignity and respect.