Bereavement Leave – Definition and List of Family Members Usually Included

Nothing prepares us when a loved one passes away. The grief and sadness that accompany this death can feel overwhelming, making it difficult to perform our duties, which is why many companies provide bereavement leave.


A small business may not already have a policy regarding bereavement. Therefore, it is crucial to be prepared before a tragedy strikes. This article covers definitions, challenges, and a list of family members typically covered under bereavement leave. 


What Is Bereavement Leave?


Bereavement leave or compassionate leave is a paid-time-off category that employees can use following the death of a close friend or family member.


Employees must deal with the emotional distress of the loss. They often need to communicate with other family members, make funeral arrangements, and work out any legalities that require their attention. Compassionate leave is designed to give staff the time they need to focus on their tragedy. 


There are no laws that an organization must pay bereavement leave to their employees. Oregon was the first state to require companies to pay for this leave. Other states like New York and Illinois are following suit. However, most states are not required to provide paid or unpaid time off. 


Nevertheless, a majority of businesses do have a policy in place that provides payments during this challenging time. The last thing an individual in mourning wants to worry about is getting paid during this much-needed respite or their job stability once they return. 


Included in Bereavement Pay


Companies are encouraged to determine which family members are covered by their bereavement leave policy. Immediate family members and loved ones frequently included in the guidelines include:


• Spouse

• Parent, including:

◦ biological parent

◦ adoptive parent

◦ foster parent

◦ parent-in-law

◦ step-parent

◦ parent of a same-gender domestic partner

◦ a person with whom the employee has or is in a relationship in loco parents or the individual or organization legally responsible for taking on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent.

• Child, including:

◦ biological child

◦ adopted child

◦ step-child

◦ foster child

◦ child of a same-gender domestic partner

• Grandfather

• Grandmother

• Grandchildren

• Domestic Partners

The following are less frequently included:

• Siblings

• Aunts and uncles

• Nieces and nephews

• Individuals with whom the employee had an extended close relationship

• Individuals who live in the same home


Some employers may require proof that the individual has died. Examples would be to provide a copy of the obituary, funeral program, or death certificate.


Length of Time


The amount of paid bereavement leave varies among organizations and employee pay grades. For example, salaried employees may have more benefits than hourly or contract employees. 


A common length of time off in the United States is 3-5 days. 


The International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plan, or IFEBP, conducted a study and determined that 94% of companies provide some bereavement leave option. The length of time offered fell into three separate groups. The number of days and percentage of organizations that offer these types of benefits are listed below.


1. Death of a spouse:

• Two days – 2%

• Three days – 56%

• Four days – 5%

• Five days – 29%

• Six or more days – 5%

2. Death of a child or parent:

• Two days – 3%

• Three days – 60%

• Four days – 5%

• Five days – 27%

• Six or more days – 3%

3. Death of an extended relative


The IFEBP reported that most businesses offered one day of bereavement leave to attend the funeral of an aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew.




If an employer does not offer bereavement leave, employees have a few other options to explore. An individual can use their paid time off if available, take an unpaid personal leave of absence, or consider working remotely.


Fortunately, many companies understand the importance of their employee’s mental health, which brings forth an opportunity for business owners to step up and show compassion for their team members. 


As a business, if you do not have a formal bereavement policy, it is time to consider one. These guidelines ensure that leave is granted fairly and equitably among employees. Managers will be able to offer immediate support by explaining the procedures and circumstances involved.


Once a bereavement policy is established, the business can operate without too much interference, while the valued co-worker can take off the time they need to move through their grief. 


How FINSYNC Can Help


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Helping small businesses is our core mission at FINSYNC.

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