When a loved one dies, you need time — to grieve and to begin the healing process. Yet, in the days following a passing, you spend most of your time on other matters. If you’re also working a full- or part-time job, your time is even more limited. That’s why it’s necessary to understand what, if any, bereavement leave your employer offers. This list of bereavement leave questions and answers will get you started.
Bereavement leave is any time off — paid or unpaid — an employee is given by his or her employer in the wake of a death. This type of leave is most often granted for the passing of someone in your immediate family but may also apply to the loss of other relatives, close friends, or coworkers. The purpose of bereavement leave is to allow time for grieving, to plan and attend the funeral, and to handle business or financial matters related to the deceased.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act does not mandate employers to provide time off related to a death, even to attend a funeral. Instead, it leaves the option and details of bereavement leave to employers and state laws. For example, in Oregon, companies with 25 or more employees must provide unpaid bereavement leave under the state’s Family Leave Act.
Most employers realize bereavement leave can help their employees grieve and regain focus on their jobs. About 60% of all employees and 71% of full-time employees can receive bereavement leave, according to the Bureau of U.S. Labor Statistics. The length of leave usually ranges from three to five days.
Everyone will likely face the death of a loved one at some point, and it can often happen unexpectedly. For these reasons, you may find it helpful to understand how to ask for bereavement leave before the time comes. Your employer’s bereavement leave policy may vary from the average policy, so it’s important to read your employee handbook or check with your company’s human resources representative for details. Here are some key points to learn in the process:
If your employer allows days off for bereavement, you’ll want to know how many and whether those days will be paid or unpaid. If bereavement leave is unpaid or you need days off over what you’re allotted, are you able to use paid time off — vacation, sick, or personal days? Part-time employees will also want to find out if any paid time off they may receive will be prorated.
You can follow simple guidelines on how to ask for bereavement leave from your employer for paid or unpaid time off. The first step is to inform your supervisor of your need for time off. Depending on your company’s policy, human resources and others may need to be notified, too.
You may also need to verify the death. To minimize abuse of company funeral leave, your employer may ask you to provide a death certificate, a copy of the obituary, or a program from the funeral service. However, you’ll more likely only need to share basic details, such as the deceased’s name, date and city of death, and your relationship to that person.
Your employer will classify which family members qualify as immediate family in its bereavement leave policy. At a minimum, immediate family includes parents, siblings, spouse, and children. However, some companies may expand their definition to include grandparents, in-laws, aunts, uncles, and others.
Knowing how brief bereavement leave can be at many companies may have you wondering how you can ease the burden of loved ones in the days following your passing. In their time of sorrow, they will worry about many things, even funeral etiquette, such as what to say to people or what to wear. They may be unaware of how to plan a funeral or are short of funds to cover funeral expenses, especially if their bereavement leave is unpaid. Fortunately, you can take small actions that go a long way in helping them worry less and instead focus on their grief and emotional well-being.
You can easily preplan your funeral via a preplanning appointment with a funeral director, during which you share how you’d like to be remembered. Your loved ones can honor you in the ways you envisioned while alleviating any pressures or bereavement guilt they may experience.
You can cover your funeral expenses before your passing. Many means are available to you, but people often choose Preneed Funeral insurance. This type of funeral insurance locks in the prices of any decisions made while ensuring funds are spent how you intended.
Another popular option is Final Expense Whole Life insurance, which not only covers funeral and burial costs but also can be used for medical bills, legal fees, or other expenses. Either one you choose, your loved ones can rest easier and be well prepared, helping them benefit from the intended purpose of bereavement leave.
Photo credit: iStock
Search for grief support resources, such as in-person groups, online forums, and phone hotlines, available in your area.
Wellabe offers life and supplemental health insurance plans to help you prepare for good days and bad. We’ll always be here to empower you to be well — well prepared, well protected, and well loved.
Kelly Rayburn, AVP national sales and distribution at Wellabe, and Olga Villaverde, from Lifetime TV’s The Balancing Act, explain the importance of preplanning your funeral. While a difficult subject, advance planning can alleviate financial and emotional burdens for your family members.
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