April 26, 2022

What Is Your Bereavement Policy?

By Paul Bieber

All of us have deaths in our lives, no escaping it.

The death of a close family member will have an impact on an employee. This cannot be avoided. I strongly urge you to incorporate a policy in your employee manual to allow for specified time-off so no extra strain is placed on an employee.

The most serious cases involve the death of a spouse or of a child. This deserves five days off with full pay. Next comes the death of a parent, grandparent or sibling which should be three days off. All other family deaths would be one day off with pay.

What is family? Limit this to aunts, uncles, nieces or nephews.

Any other bereavement leave is taken out of the company’s normal days-off program or charged as a vacation or sick day.

Do you feel that people have taken advantage of this? If so, make a rule that for three and five day paid absences, a copy of the death notice from a newspaper is required.

When an employee comes back to work, be kind for the first half-hour and let other employees offer sympathy, and then it is back to work. Psychologists say that getting back to a regular work routine is a great way to get through the tough times after a death.

An employee managing the death of a parent may have certain legal hurdles with an estate or a will. Acknowledge this allowing the employee to use the office phone, or his/her cell phone to speak with lawyers as necessary. This may go on for a year. I know that personally.

Certain religions have specific time frames to do certain events during a bereavement period. Ask your employee if they need certain times off and ask them to notify you at least a week in advance when they have to be out-of-work. The same thought also applies to legal situations.

A person who loses a spouse, parent or a child will often need counseling. Allow for this in your medical plan and time requirements. This can be done in evening hours, but certain types of counseling may cut into work time. This counseling may last from three to six months.

Death may be predictable, such as people with a defined disease. Your employee may want to spend as much time with a parent or child as possible. An employee may need a FMLA leave in these cases.

After the death of one parent that lives far away your employee may need to move the living parent closer. This is time that can be covered by an FMLA leave.

All of these listings of time off have a deep impact on your business. The best route for you to take is ongoing training of all employees in various tasks so that people may step up to new jobs as needed.

One of the biggest concerns for a company is the death of an employee at work due to an accident. Your company will go through extreme turmoil with investigations, blame-placing and fears about coming to work. Immediately have professional help to get through this situation. Ask your personal doctor to recommend a psychological team that can come in and work with your employees.

Last thought: Be sure to share the information of the death of a loved one of an employee, so that fellow employees can offer sympathies on the return to work, or for employees to make a funeral home or cemetery visit.

Paul’s Afterthought: Be decisive. Right or wrong, make a decision. The road is paved with flat squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.