August 18, 2022
Marie J. Ignozzi
As we live with a pandemic that has resulted in more than one million deaths (and still counting) in the United States, employers have begun to re-evaluate and expand their bereavement policies. Earlier this year, Facebook modified its bereavement policy to include 10 days of paid leave for the loss of a non-immediate family member. Google now pays an employee's widow/widower half of their partner’s salary for a decade. Goldman Sachs also made recent headlines for increasing its bereavement leave period from 5 days to 20 days for the loss of a partner or child, and for implementing a 20-day paid leave policy for parents who suffered a pregnancy loss.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, approximately 88% of businesses offered bereavement leave to their employees in 2020, up from 81% in 2016. (Sadly, that means as of 2020, 12% of employers still did not offer paid bereavement leave.) Typically, bereavement policies allow for a short window of 3-5 days off following a personal loss, and are only applicable when the death involves an immediate family member – a spouse, parent, or child.
The pandemic has forced people to acknowledge that grief does not require the label of specific relationships, but it does require time and space to process, and employees need that support from employers. Is it time to evaluate your company’s bereavement policy to provide that layer of comfort to your employees when needed?
Companies should first consider increasing the number of days of paid time off, and expanding the definition of a family member to include, for example, an unmarried partner, a sibling, cousins, and maybe even pets (they are family too!). Employers can distinguish between immediate and distant relatives where appropriate, or offer additional paid time off when the employee travels out of town to attend services.
Every company varies, but no matter what the policy is, your employees want to know that when it is needed, there is paid time off to grieve their loss. The Employment & Labor attorneys at RKW Law Group are here to help you update your policy to improve your workplace culture.
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