Best Practices for Creating a Bereavement Leave Policy

by | Mar 15, 2023 | HR Policies & Procedures

What is bereavement leave?

Bereavement leave allows employees to stay home when a loved one passes away. While the specifics of your bereavement leave policy may vary based on your company culture and current employee practices, the general concept is the same: Employees are given time off from their jobs to mourn a loss in their family. Bereavement leave is different from other types of leave because it’s designed to help employees deal with a significant loss. You may also see terms like compassionate leave or compassionate leave for certain family members, but those terms may be misconstrued because they don’t have the same legal meaning.

How long is bereavement leave for?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Ideally, you want to give your employees the time they need to heal. On the other hand, you don’t want to leave your company short-staffed while they’re away. Policies vary based on your company’s needs and culture. Some companies allow employees to take a few weeks off. Others give them a few days. It’s best to have a bereavement leave policy in place before an employee experiences a loss in their life. This way, you can coordinate your company’s needs while also accommodating the specific needs of your employees. You may even want to offer flexible options to allow for a certain amount of time off or the option to take a combination of leave days.

Make sure your employees have clear instructions for their time off

Be sure your bereavement leave policy is clearly communicated to your employees. Ideally, you want to make sure everyone on your team is aware of your current policies and procedures. For example, who has authority to grant time off or what are the acceptable forms of leave. You may also want to make sure your employees know how to request time off if they need it. There may be instances where employees have to request time off. In those cases, you may have to explain your bereavement leave policy to them. If you find that an employee is taking too much time off, you may have to address the issue with them. That may require you to make sure other employees know the person is taking too much time off.

Consider if pay should be provided for bereavement leave

Most companies allow employees to use accrued vacation or sick days to cover their time off. This may be the best option for your company. It allows you to keep your regular team members on staff while also providing time off for them to deal with a loss. If you don’t currently allow time off with accrued time, you may want to consider changing this policy. It may be beneficial to your company to allow more flexibility in this area. This may be especially relevant if your company has a culture of pushing employees to work extra hours than they’re contracted to work.

Should you require staff to use vacation days or sick days?

Some companies require employees to use vacation days when they have bereavement leave. Others have a hybrid policy where employees are allowed to use vacation time or sick days. It may depend on your company’s culture and current practices. It may be beneficial to your company to require your employees to use vacation days. This may give you the ability to control when and how much vacation time your team members have accrued.


Bereavement leave is a special type of leave that employees can take to deal with the death of a loved one. It’s important to create a policy around this type of leave and make sure employees have clear guidelines as to when they are allowed to take bereavement leave. Accrued vacation or sick days can be used to cover time off.

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