HR Management & Compliance

More Tips for Artfully Handling Bereavement Leave

Yesterday we looked at some tips for delicately handling the details of bereavement leave for an employee who has lost a loved one. Today we will discuss a few more tips for handling these policies with grace.

  • Be sure your bereavement leave policy explains who is eligible for this type of leave and how much paid leave time will be available. Typically, this depends on the employee’s relationship to the deceased. For immediate family members, more time is usually granted. Also:
    • Consider whether your policy will account for the need to travel away from the local area to attend services, which may necessary regardless of the employee’s relationship with the deceased.
    • The bereavement leave policy should note any requirements that must be completed before becoming eligible to take bereavement leave, such as minimum duration of employment.
    • Consider including a maximum time off (with or without pay) in each circumstance, and explain how that maximum varies depending on the relationship.
    • Note whether the company will request verification (death certificate or obituary, for example) to grant leave or before such leave is paid.
  • Train managers on what to expect when an employee returns from bereavement leave. Work is often a source of routine and can help someone in this transitory period. However, it’s also a difficult time and may affect employee performance. Employers should be sensitive to this. It’s not abnormal for someone in this situation to be distracted, less productive, tired, unable to concentrate, forgetful, unable to make decisions, emotional, quiet, depressed, upset, angry, irritable, and more. Employees in this situation may also be embarrassed about any of the above.
  • Employers must be patient during this period. Grief is a process. The employee will just need some time—no amount of coaching is going to get them to just go back to normal. Take the time to talk with the employee and show an interest. This can help him or her with the grieving process. But know that every person will be different.
  • Consider temporarily changing job duties, if possible and appropriate, to help the employee during this time. For example, tasks or projects could be modified or delayed, if possible. Or, work hours could be made flexible, which could assist the employee in dealing with the stress, grief, and all of the nonwork responsibilities that come during this time.
  • Consider when to refer an employee to external assistance, such as an employee assistance program (EAP) if your organization offers this benefit.

What other considerations would you suggest when dealing with employee bereavement leave?