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Am I Legally Required to Give Bereavement Leave?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

When your employees lose a loved one, they might ask for bereavement leave. Employers typically want to assist their employees as much as possible. Allowing them to take time off to bury and grieve their loved ones is something that they can offer.

If you're a small business owner, you might wonder if bereavement laws require you to give employees a certain number of days off.

There is no federal law on point. But, many companies still incorporate bereavement time off into their employee policies.

If you do decide to give employees the ability to take bereavement leave, there are some things you might need to consider:

  • How many days should you provide? As an employer, this is ultimately up to you to decide. Whether it is a few days or a week, make sure to include this into your bereavement policy.
  • Paid or unpaid? Employees would probably appreciate a paid bereavement policy. Yet, for some small businesses offering too many days of paid time off is simply not feasible. Make your own judgment about what is appropriate, and be sure to let your employees know exactly what to expect should they decide to take a bereavement leave.
  • Should you put it in the employee handbook? You probably should. Putting details of bereavement leave into your employee handbook can clear confusion and help your workers know exactly what kind of benefits they can receive.
  • What qualifies under the policy? Should you allow employees to take a bereavement leave only for the death of a family member? Or should you extend the policy to include friends?
  • What happens if your employee violates the policy? It might be wise to explicitly spell out punishments that employees will incur if they violate the policy.

Bereavement leave laws may vary depending on your state. California tried to pass a law last year that mandated bereavement leave, but it was vetoed by the governor. It might be prudent to consult with an employment attorney in your jurisdiction to get a snapshot of what rules may apply to you.

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