What is Bereavement Leave?

What is Bereavement Leave?
Last Updated: June 25, 2024

Bereavement is an unavoidable reality of life that affects everyone at some point. When a loved one passes away, it can be a difficult and emotional experience that calls for space to mourn without interruptions or interference. As a result, more employers are offering policies around bereavement leave so that impacted employees can mourn and heal without worrying about their jobs.

In this article, we will define what bereavement leave is, who is eligible for it, how long it typically lasts, and everything that will help employers to be supportive and compassionate to their employees and equip employees with knowledge about their rights regarding bereavement leave.

What is Bereavement Leave?

Employees are permitted to take a few days off work after the loss of a family member, a close relative or a friend under the terms of compassionate leave, also known as bereavement leave. The severe illness of a loved one is considered as eligibility for bereavement leave in some companies. This time off from work allows employees to attend the funeral or make the necessary arrangements while also spending time with their families. Unlike other work leaves, bereavement leave is not dependent on other work schedules.

ā€‹Bereavement leave policies differ between companies and countries. Companies often provide their employees with specific paid or unpaid leave days. A bereavement leave policy can include eligibility criteria such as the relationship with the deceased. Rarely, documentation such as a death certificate or an obituary may be required. In some countries, bereavement leave is not a legal requirement, so companies provide this as a benefit to support their employees.

What is the eligibility and process for requesting bereavement leave?


The eligibility criteria for bereavement leave may vary from company to company, depending on the company's bereavement policy. To qualify for bereavement leave, an employee should have recently experienced the death of a close relative, such as a spouse, child, parent, or sibling. Some organizations may also permit including friends and extended or distant family members, including grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The number of days offered will depend on the relationship with the deceased; for instance, more days will be offered to close family members and fewer days for distant family and friends.

To request bereavement leave, employees must inform their employers, immediate manager or HR representative without delay. Once notified, the relevant personnel will determine the duration of the leave and whether it will be paid or unpaid. Other resources for supporting the employee may also be provided, for example, counselling and employee assistance programs (EAPs).

Employees should understand their company's bereavement leave policy and be aware of potential limitations. In some cases, the number of bereavement leave days may be limited per year, or employees may be required to take time from their vacation or sick time.

How long is bereavement leave?

Typically the length of bereavement leave ranges from one to five days. However, more time may be offered depending on the situation; for example, more time may be offered for travelling or handling any legal requirements pertaining to the death and the estate of the deceased. Employees may have to use their annual leave days as part of their bereavement leave if they need additional time.

Federal legislation requiring bereavement leave does not exist in the United States. Some states have enacted their bereavement leave regulations. For example, Oregon mandates that businesses with over 25 employees provide their staff with up to two weeks of paid bereavement leave each year.

Related: 13 Reasons Why Every Employee Needs Paid Time Offā€‹

What is bereavement leave

Pay and benefits during bereavement leave

Pay and benefits during bereavement leave depend on the employer's policy and whether the employee is eligible. Employers provide paid bereavement leave as part of their employee benefits package, but it often goes unpaid in most instances. According to the needs of each employee, they may request paid time off by using alternative leave options available to them.

Employers may provide additional benefits during the bereavement leave in addition to the regular wage, such as burial coverage for immediate family members. Speaking with your employer is essential if you want to learn more about all the advantages available to you in bereavement leave.

Alternatives to bereavement leave

Employees who have lost a loved one normally take time off to deal with the loss in the form of bereavement leave. However, some other leave options are available that employees can make use of. Sick leave, personal leave and annual days off may be used in addition to the days offered for bereavement.

The alternative option for time off during bereavement will need to be evaluated according to the needs of each employee. Sick leave may be offered if the employee is going through emotional health problems or if their physical health has been affected by the loss. The personal leave days may be appropriate if the employee needs time to deal with the loss beyond the company's bereavement leave policy. Annual leave may be considered if the employee wants to rest and recover before resuming work.

The choice of an alternative leave should be made known to the employer, and the appropriate channels of requesting time off should be adhered to, including providing the reason for the time off. Employees should work with their employers to find the best solution, considering the company's needs.

What is the bereavement list?

The bereavement list shares some similarities with bereavement leave, but some differences exist. The bereavement list is a type of leave of absence in sports which is given to players to attend to a serious illness or the death of an immediate family member. The bereavement list is only available to professional players and addresses the personal circumstances related to the player s immediate family. The bereavement list is seven days, but the policies may allow for more time, for example, if they have to travel to another country.

The bereavement list is important to baseball players as they can get time off to attend to personal matters without affecting their position on the team. Though it differs from bereavement leave they do share the same main purpose of supporting individuals during their time of hardship and grief. During this time, the players continue to receive their pay and benefits as if they were still on the roaster.


Dealing with the death of a loved one may be traumatic, and it may be necessary for the individuals affected to seek support and assistance if necessary. Companies can offer resources or services to assist grieving employees; these include counselling services, support groups and other guidance resources.

This article took a closer look at what bereavement leave is, the process of requesting it, and some of the benefits and implications that come with bereavement leave. It also explored what the bereavement list is compared to bereavement leave.

Employees needing to take time off to deal with a bereavement should understand what bereavement leave entails. Knowing the policies and the options available in the bereavement leave policy is necessary to leverage all the benefits.

Belinda Pondayi
Belinda Pondayi is a seasoned Software Developer with a BSc Honors Degree in Computer Science and a Microsoft 365 Certified: Endpoint Administrator Associate certification. She has experience as a Database Engineer, Website Developer, Mobile App Developer, and Software Developer, having developed over 20 WordPress websites. Belinda is committed to excellence and meticulous in her work. She embraces challenges with a problem-solving mindset and thinks creatively to overcome obstacles. Passionate about continuous improvement, she regularly seeks feedback and stays updated with emerging technologies like AI. Additionally, she writes content for the Human Capital Hub blog.

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