There has been a recent push for employers to consider offering paid bereavement leave. While most employers do acknowledge the need for time off to mourn the loss of a family member, currently, there are no federal laws that require employers to provide employees either paid or unpaid leave. In 2017, a federal bill was proposed to enhance FMLA to include bereavement leave for parents grieving the loss of a child under the age of 18. To date, this legislation has not been passed. Only the state of Oregon has passed a law requiring employers to provide paid bereavement leave.
New York could become the second to mandate that such leave be paid, as a bill passed by the state legislature on June 19th would expand the state’s existing paid family leave law to cover workers who’ve experienced the death of a family member. If signed by Governor Cuomo, the bill would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, making New York the most generous state when it comes to bereavement leave.
Most employers acknowledge the need for time off to mourn the loss of family members and offer bereavement leave. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted a survey on paid leave options in 2017 and found that 90 % of employers provide bereavement leave. Most companies provide paid bereavement time of approximately three days for the death of an immediate family member and one day for other relatives and friends. This added visibility has pushed some larger companies to expand their leave policies even further. Facebook and Mastercard, Inc. are companies who have expanded their leave policy to include 20 days off for the death of an immediate family member.
As an employer dedicated to treating your employees fairly, consistently, and with empathy, you will want to have your policy documented in your employee handbook to answer the employee's initial questions, and provide them with an overview of what they can expect regarding bereavement leave. Creating a company culture of empathy and support during an employee’s time of need will help to instill positive attitudes among all personnel.
While federal employment laws do not currently mandate bereavement leave, having an accessible policy that your employees can point to can position your organization in a tight labor market, and make the organization stand out against its competitors. Should you have questions about or need help updating your current bereavement leave policy, please contact us.