HR Management & Compliance

Ask the Expert: How Much Bereavement Leave Should We Offer?

Is there benchmarking available for time off for bereavement/bereavement leave?

There is no law requiring it, but most employers provide paid time off to employees when there is a death in the employee’s immediate family. Employers may set whatever bereavement leave policy they want. The policy should apply to all employees uniformly and be enforced consistently.

Below we have provided survey data on bereavement leave. Each month BLR conducts a nationwide survey to learn about current HR policies and practices throughout the country. On average, more than 1,800 individuals participate in the surveys. The data from each survey is aggregated and then shared with participants and posted on BLR websites.

A total of 1,431 individuals, with 79% at manager level or above, participated in this survey on Employer Leave, which was conducted in August 2015. Of those who identified themselves, 58.3% represent privately owned for-profit companies, 10.1% are with public entities, and 31.5% work for government or nonprofit organizations. Companies with 1-250 employees account for 60.9% of survey participants.

Companies with 251-500 employees make up 13.8% and organizations with 501-1,000 comprise 9.3.  Rounding out the group, companies with more than 1,000 employees account for 16% of survey participants. Over half (66.4%) of the participants are in service industries; 21.2% are in agriculture, forestry, construction, manufacturing, or mining; 9.2% are in wholesale, retail, transportation, or warehousing; and 3.3% are in real estate or utilities.

Time off for a funeral is provided by 88.6% of survey participants with 1-3 days the rule for 79.5% and 4-5 days for 18.9%. Bereavement for a spouse, child, or parent is available for 99% (same as 2014 and 2013) of those who offer bereavement leave as a benefit.

Brother and sister are included for 96.7%. Grandparents are included for 88.7% and grandchild is included for 80.9%. Stepparent and stepchild are included for 77% and 78.6%, respectively. Bereavement leave for the death of an employee’s mother-in-law or father-in-law is available for 82.5% and 82.4%, respectively.

Leave for the funeral of a brother-or sister-in law, though, is available for 60.8%. Extended family members are included for 26.1% and exes (5.8%) and their family members (4.7%) are also available.

Definitions of immediate family may differ from employer to employer. Some employers include in the definition those with whom the employee had a close relationship (e.g., a person who lived with the employee or a person who cared for the employee in the absence of a parent). Employers should consider whether an unmarried partner in a couple is considered family.

Some states require an employer to provide the same benefits to an employee with a domestic or civil union partner as it provides to an employee with a spouse. In states that legally recognize same-sex marriage, employers are required to provide the same benefits to same-sex spouses that are provided to opposite-sex spouses.

Like any other leave, bereavement leave should be a matter of policy. Employers should include the policy in the employee handbook if they have one, post it, or distribute it with other rules and regulations of the workplace. It should be enforced consistently.