Asking for bereavement leave isn’t always easy, but neither is losing a loved one. In addition to dealing with grief, those who have lost a close loved one may be charged with planning the funeral, writing an obituary, and sorting out the financial duties associated with it. Due to the emotional, mental, and financial strain a close family loss can cause, many employers offer bereavement leave to help ease the burden and give employees time to cope.
What is bereavement?
Bereavement is a natural part of grief. The word usually refers to the period of time that the person suffering the loss (the bereaved) faces grief and mourning. There is no set period of time for bereavement, as each person will need to process grief in their own time. During bereavement, it can be beneficial to meet and discuss your feelings with a grief counselor. Verbalizing our emotions can make them easier to process, and trained professionals can help us identify our emotions and find healthy ways to express them.
What is bereavement leave?
Simply put, bereavement leave is time off work taken by an employee due to the death of another individual, usually a close relative. The employee taking leave normally uses this time to tend to their emotional health, prepare and attend a funeral, and sort out other post-death matters such as the deceased’s will and/or estate.
Currently, there is only one state that requires employers to provide bereavement leave: Oregon. The other 49 states do not require employers to offer bereavement leave. While there is no federal law that requires bereavement leave, many employers still offer some sort of policy to aid in this circumstance. Employment Law Handbook offers a list of links to bereavement leave and other leave laws for each state.
If you are considering contacting your employer about bereavement leave, be sure to notify your employer as soon as possible. You may also want to review your workplace’s bereavement policy and work with HR, if you can, to ensure you take all the necessary steps to sort your affairs.
Is bereavement leave paid?
Whether you are eligible for paid bereavement leave will depend on your employer’s policies. Most of the time, bereavement leave is unpaid and lasts between one and five days. If bereavement leave is unpaid at your place of work, you may have the option to use PTO instead or for additional time.
Companies that do offer paid bereavement leave often provide somewhere between three and five days to their employees. The days offered may also vary depending on whether the deceased is immediate family, extended family, or a close friend. Eligibility for bereavement leave may also depend on your employment status, whether you are a full-time or part-time employee.
Some companies may offer temporary remote work policies. If you will be away for an extended period of time and feel your emotional health will not be negatively impacted, you may be able to request time to work remotely. Be sure that you will have stable access to the internet as well as an audio and video connection if you want to make this request.
How to ask for bereavement leave
Bereavement leave can be a tricky topic to navigate, as it requires people to mix their personal and professional lives. The employee who has suffered a loss is likely to be in a fragile emotional state as well. Having a written bereavement leave policy can make this conversation much easier, as both the employee and the employer will have a guidepost to help manage the discussion.
To make your transition to bereavement leave as easy as possible, here are ten tips for your bereavement leave request. While these suggestions are intended to help guide you, how you ask for bereavement leave and how long will depend on your employer and your personal circumstances.
- Review your employer’s policies. Take a look at your employer’s bereavement leave policies first. Familiarizing yourself with the policy can make the conversation with your boss or HR easier. It will also help you determine your timeline (outlined in step 3).
- Notify your employer ASAP. Of course, it can be difficult to anticipate death in the family, but it is important to give as much notice as possible. You may want to write an email or make a call to your supervisor and/or HR to notify them of the loss and plan the next steps. This call or email will not be your official bereavement leave letter (outlined in step 4), but it will let the right people know to expect a letter shortly.
- Determine your timeline. Consider your mental health, finances, travel plans for the funeral, and temporary remote-work options to make a timeline for how long you will be gone and when you plan to return. Some people may return to work part-time or remotely before transitioning back to a full-time schedule. If this is something you’d like to do, be sure to discuss it with your employer first to see what options are available.
- Write a bereavement leave letter. Your employer may require the letter for their records. Be sure to ask whether they need this letter via email or in writing. This sample bereavement leave letter is an excellent starting point.
- Keep it succinct. Your personal life is personal, so do not feel compelled to include the intimate details of your family’s situation. Rather, stick to the facts and keep things as professional as you can. Something like “I am writing to inform you that my [LOVED ONE] has passed away” is enough.
- Include important dates. Be sure to name how many days you are requesting leave and whether you plan to use any additional paid time off. Also include any plans to work remotely, part-time, and/or your return date.
- Supply documentation. Some employers will require a death certificate or obituary in order to grant bereavement leave. Supply these as soon as you can to avoid delays. If you cannot obtain these documents for any reason, be sure to communicate that with your employer so you can discuss alternatives.
- Leave workplace notes. Leave notes about your existing projects or duties to help your colleagues manage your responsibilities while you are away. You’ll also want to set your out-of-office reply, so anyone who tries to contact you is aware that you are away.
- Designate a point of contact. It is important to name someone who can step in for any urgent matters, whether it be your supervisor or a fellow employee who knows the ins and outs of your role. Even if the point of contact cannot do every duty you are assigned, they can help ease the workload for you upon your return.
- Practice self-care. While on bereavement leave, take time to process your emotions. Seek counseling for guidance, get plenty of rest, and continue eating and exercising as best you can. Dealing with grief is never easy, but caring for yourself can help you process your emotions and manage pain.
At Bateman-Allen Funeral Home, our experienced staff is committed to doing everything in our power to make your experience meaningful and memorable. Each family we serve is treated the way we would want our own families to be treated. Our goal is to lessen the burden on your family so that you can focus on celebrating your loved one’s life and begin the healing process. Contact us today.