Understanding bereavement leave

Here’s what you need to know about taking time off from work following the death of a loved one.

Understanding bereavement leave

Step away from your job and take the time you need.

Losing a loved one is never easy—neither is going back to work when you’re grieving. But many companies offer their employees bereavement leave.

What is bereavement leave?

Bereavement leave is paid time away from work that an employee can use for a variety of purposes after the death of a loved one, including to make funeral arrangements, attend a funeral, pay respects to their family at a wake or memorial ceremony, and process their grief.

Generally, employers define a loved one as a parent, grandparent, spouse, sibling, or child, although some policies may include extended family or close friends.

Is my employer required to provide bereavement leave?

No. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does not apply to bereavement, meaning there’s no federal law that requires private employers to provide their workers bereavement leave.

Oregon is the exception. The Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) allows employees to take up to two weeks of unpaid leave when a family member passes away, so long as the leave is taken within 60 days of the notice of the death of a covered family member. (To be eligible, an employee must have worked for the company for at least 180 calendar days.)

Nonetheless, 88% of companies offer paid bereavement leave for full-time employees, a recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found. And some companies offer generous benefits: Adobe and Facebook, for example, provide up to four weeks of paid bereavement leave for their employees.

How do I take bereavement leave?

If your company offers bereavement leave, it’s important to discuss with your boss how much time off you want to take. Note the funeral date and any dates for travel so that your boss knows when you’ll be unavailable in case of a work emergency. Also, reiterate your commitment to your job and thank your manager for their understanding.

In addition, make arrangements for someone to cover for you while you’re on leave. Ideally you’ll want to appoint a co-worker who is already familiar with the projects that you’re working on. Provide your stand-in with any resources or documents they may need to accomplish these tasks during your absence.

Note: Some companies require employees to provide a bereavement request in writing—and some require proof, such as copies of obituaries or death certificates— before they grant bereavement leave, so check with your human resources department.

What to do while on bereavement leave

The most important thing is to make sure you step away from your work and take the time you need to heal. Lean on close family and friends for support during this difficult time. And consider meeting with a therapist who can help you process your grief.

If you don’t have an adequate support network, you can find a local support group through an organization like GriefShare. Surrounding yourself with people who can help you recover from your loss is invaluable. There are also online support groups, such as HealGrief, that help people mourn and heal, while celebrating a loved one's life.

What if my employer doesn’t offer bereavement leave?

If your company doesn’t provide bereavement leave or doesn’t have a bereavement policy in place, it can’t hurt to ask your manager about taking time off. Your boss may be able to grant you paid or unpaid leave at his or her own discretion.

If all else fails, you can consider using your vacation days, paid time off (PTO), or sick days to take bereavement leave from work.

Find an employer that cares

Losing someone close to us can be a heavy blow. If your employer doesn't offer a decent benefits package, there's no harm in looking for one that does. Need some help taking the first step? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters for conscientious companies search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you.