Global HR 8 min

Your HR guide to bereavement leave for global companies

Written by Barbara Matthews
June 24, 2024
Barbara Matthews


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Companies that offer bereavement benefits as part of their employment packages attract and retain top talent. Offering comprehensive benefits throughout the employee life cycle is an effective way to develop and maintain a loyal workforce.

This guide to bereavement leave, laws, and policies will help organizations, including those with a remote workforce, be well-prepared for when a team member needs to take this type of leave.

What is bereavement leave? 

Bereavement leave is the amount of time an employee takes off from work after a loved one or family member has passed away. They use this time to grieve and/or attend a funeral service. They may also need to handle estate affairs in the aftermath of their loved one’s passing.

Most companies allow between three and five days as part of their bereavement policy. Sometimes, the leave is paid, and sometimes, it’s unpaid. HR teams should know how to answer employee questions about bereavement leave, including the allowed duration and whether the employee will get paid time off.

Bereavement leave isn’t regulated the same way in every country. If you have a globally distributed team of remote employees, then you’ll also need to know how bereavement leave works in each of those regions.

Why is a bereavement leave policy important?

When a grieving employee feels neglected, here can be wide-ranging negative effects on the employee, other employees, and the workplace and organization altogether. 

With a bereavement leave policy, you give your employees the space and support they need to navigate their loss and grief. Meanwhile, your other team members can provide adequate coverage in the employee’s absence. Maintaining productivity when a team member is out due to a death in the family is a part of any established bereavement policy.

How does a bereavement leave policy work?

When familiarizing your team with how your company handles bereavement leave, be prepared to answer some frequently-asked questions. What does the policy entail? What information should HR professionals provide to their employees?

Let’s look at these points in detail.

What should a bereavement leave policy address?

For clear communication, you can include your bereavement leave policy in your employee handbook. Your bereavement leave policy can include the following information:

  • A description of the leave type, as well as the qualifications for eligible employees

  • The number of days off that are allowed under the policy and any applicable laws and regulations

  • Whether the leave is paid or unpaid, and whether the employee is able to use saved PTO to cover the unpaid days

  • Any exceptions the company may allow for shift workers and contractors

  • Expectations for how the leave will be tracked and applied for, including how far in advance the employee should apply for the leave for the request to be granted

  • Additional information on how to apply for extended leave and any extra benefits granted (if applicable)

As long as your company is following local regulations, you’re free to customize your bereavement policy as much as you’d like. 

Keep in mind, too, that what you include in your policy can help you attract talent. In fact, 40% of employers believe their employees will quit and find work elsewhere that offers better benefits. 10% of employees would take a pay cut if it meant access to better benefits.

How to make the bereavement leave process easier for employees

Apart from offering a bereavement leave policy, there are some additional resources to consider offering before, during, and after bereavement leave. Additional support prevents unexpected workflow complications as well as provides peace of mind to grieving employees.

  • Flexible working hours: Temporarily allowing for alternate or reduced work hours gives employees additional time to recover from their loss.

  • Remote or hybrid working options: In some cases, an employee might not be ready to return to work right away. If this happens, offering a remote or hybrid work option while they continue to recover may help. It also shows them that the organization cares about their mental and emotional state.

  • Additional support resources: Offering an extra Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be beneficial. In the case of bereavement, an EAP would cover support services like grief counseling.

Common questions about bereavement leave policies

Even for the most seasoned HR professional, understanding the policies, rules, and regulations surrounding bereavement leave can be stressful. 

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions on bereavement leave. You can prepare to answer these questions should they come up with employees who may want to request time off due to a loved one’s death.

Why bereavement leave is necessary

What is the average number of bereavement days global employers offer?

  • US: There are no specific federal regulations for US companies on bereavement leave, including the number of days allotted. However, some individual states have their own laws and legislation in place to protect bereavement leave rights.

  • United Kingdom: UK employees are allowed up to 14 days of bereavement leave if their child passes away. Any other family member or dependent’s death does not come with guaranteed leave. The law simply states that the allotted time off should “be reasonable.” Whether the employee receives PTO during their bereavement leave is up to the discretion of the employer.

  • India: There is currently no enforcement of bereavement leave in India. However, most companies allow for up to seven days of leave, which can be paid or unpaid. Usually, company policies cover the loss of immediate family members, such as parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses, children, or in-laws.

  • China: China allows for three full days of bereavement leave if an immediate family member, classified as a parent, spouse, or child, passes away.

  • Brazil: Employees in Brazil are entitled to two paid days of bereavement leave for the death of a parent, grandparent, sibling, child, or any other family member who is directly dependent on the employee.

  • Japan: Bereavement leave is also known as condolence leave in Japan. Up to five days is mandated for full-time employees, but there is no requirement for part-time employees or contractors. The amount of leave allotted depends on the employee’s relationship with the deceased.

  • France: The amount of bereavement leave allotted in France depends on the circumstances. France allows for 14 days of employer-paid leave in the event of the death of a child under age 25. In the case of a spouse or close relative’s death, it allows for three days.

  • Canada: Under the Compassionate Care policy, Canadian employees are entitled to up to 10 days of bereavement leave due to the death of a family member. The first three days are paid leave if the employee has worked for the employer for more than three months.

If your company hires globally, HR professionals need to be well-versed in the bereavement leave policies that apply to your dispersed team members.

Is bereavement leave a federal law in the US?

There is no specific federal law in the United States that protects bereavement leave. However, some US states have their own regulations.

  • California: Employers with five or more eligible employees are required to allot five days of bereavement leave to most of their workforce.

  • Illinois: Employers with 50 or more eligible employees qualify for up to two weeks of unpaid time off. This policy stipulates that leave is available due to the death of a covered family member or a loss related to fertility, pregnancy, surrogacy, or adoption.

  • Maryland: Companies with 15 or more eligible employees have the choice of using up to five days of paid sick time or up to three days of bereavement leave for the death of an immediate family member.

  • Oregon: For eligible employees of companies with a workforce of 25 or more, Oregon allows the right to take two weeks of bereavement leave for the death of a family member, with up to 12 weeks per calendar year.

  • Washington: Washington state does not require its employers to provide a bereavement policy.

Does bereavement reset each year?

Bereavement leave doesn’t usually roll over to the next year, but different companies may have specific policies around this. Many organizations offer a certain amount of bereavement time per incidence of a loved one passing. 

A roll-over or reset policy may also depend on the country where the employee resides. In Canada, for example, bereavement leave is reset yearly, while in the US, there is no such requirement. 

A bereavement leave policy often allows for a maximum number of days per incident, too. In the UK, for instance, employees are allowed up to five days of leave per incident, depending on the employee’s relationship to the deceased.

Tackle bereavement leave proactively in your global team

Providing support to a grieving employee shows that you value team members — a major factor in employee retention. 

With Remote HR Management, your team members can easily request for bereavement leave and manage their time off in a single platform. You can easily manage your team's time-off requests and stay on top of upcoming leaves.

To find out how Remote can help you manage your global team, chat with us today.

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