What Is a Bereavement Policy? (And How to Write One)
Updated December 14, 2022
Losing a loved one typically requires time away from work to process the situation and make necessary arrangements for the deceased. Regardless of their position, employees mourning a loved one require support from their employer and colleagues. Establishing a bereavement leave policy can help everyone understand how to navigate this challenging period and reduce the work pressure for the grieving employee. In this article, we explain what a bereavement policy is, discuss its importance, highlight what to include in one, describe how to write one, and answer frequently asked questions.
What is a bereavement policy?
A bereavement policy is the rules describing how an organization supports employees who lost a loved one. While this policy typically covers the loss of an immediate family member, it may also include extended family members and friends. A bereavement leave policy can help ensure employers provide the required assistance, such as time away from work. Many organizations outline this policy in their employee handbook.
Why is a bereavement leave policy important?
Here are various reasons a bereavement leave policy is necessary:
Provides the opportunity to fulfil family responsibilities: An employee might want to handle vital tasks related to their loss, such as making memorial arrangements and completing financial and legal documents. Bereavement leave policies generally allow employees to complete these tasks before returning to work.
Helps improve the relationship between employers and employees: A compassionate policy typically shows grieving employees that their employers care about their health and well-being. This can foster a positive working relationship, leading to more dedicated employees.
Offers employees the time to adjust to their loss: A bereavement leave policy relieves employees from the pressure of completing their work duties while grieving. Employees can use this temporary break to spend time with their families and friends, contact life insurers, and process their emotions.
What can you include in a work bereavement leave policy?
If you're responsible for writing a bereavement policy, you can include the following details:
Eligibility criteria: This explains what qualifies an employee for bereavement leave. The number of employment years typically defines who's eligible for bereavement leave.
Duration of bereavement leave: According to the Government of Canada, an employee is eligible for up to 10 days of bereavement leave for an immediate family member. An organization may also offer longer days of bereavement leave.
Payment structure: This involves indicating the number of paid and unpaid leave days. For example, if employees work in a federally regulated establishment for at least 90 days, they can receive three days of paid leave and seven days of unpaid leave.
How to write a bereavement leave policy
You can follow these steps to write a well-structured bereavement leave policy:
1. State the policy's purpose
The policy's purpose is a statement at the top that explains why the policy is necessary. You can use this statement to emphasize your commitment to supporting team members while expressing sympathy. If an organization provides additional support, such as counselling or financial support, you can include it in this section. The policy's purpose can also specify how many days off from work an employee can receive and why an organization can grant this time off.
2. Make an official document
You can create a digital document and include the printed version in the employee handbook. Consider working with human resources professionals to determine the requirements and procedures for initiating an employee's bereavement leave. You can use an existing template or make yours by including all the relevant information, such as the eligibility criteria, duration of leave, and payment structure.
3. Outline the application process
You can outline the bereavement leave application process in the policy's last paragraph. This section explains how an employee can prepare for time off work following the loss of a loved one. It can also specify whether the employee requires application letters, contact numbers, and supporting documents, such as a death certificate. Many companies accept verbal or written notices to direct supervisors. The application process section can also outline how the employee can ask for an extension and specify whether the organization can compensate for additional days off.
FAQ about a bereavement leave policy
Here are answers to frequently asked questions about a bereavement leave policy:
What are the policies for bereavement leave in different provinces and territories?
Every province and territory has unique labour and employment laws and different rules on bereavement leave. Here's a list of rules for some provinces and territories:
Here are the requirements for bereavement leave in Alberta:
Employees can take bereavement leave if they lose family members, such as nephews, uncles, nieces, aunts, and anyone they consider a relative.
Employees who have at least 90 days of employment are eligible.
The employee is eligible for up to three unpaid leave days.
Here are the standards for bereavement leave in British Columbia:
The employee can take bereavement leave if they lose immediate family members.
The employee is eligible for up to three unpaid leave days.
While there's no legal obligation for paid leave days, an employer may offer this to grieving employees.
Here are the standards for bereavement leave in Manitoba:
Employees can take bereavement leave to process the loss of family members, including nephews, uncles, aunts, and nieces.
Anyone employed for at least 30 days with the same employer can take time away from work.
The employee can have three unpaid leave days.
Here are the requirements for bereavement leave in Ontario:
An employee can take bereavement leave to process the loss of their family members, including spouses, parents, siblings, and dependent relatives.
Employees who have at least two consecutive weeks of employment are eligible for bereavement leave.
The employee has two unpaid leave days in a calendar year.
Prince Edward Island
Here are the requirements for bereavement leave in Prince Edward Island:
Bereavement leave typically covers the loss of immediate and extended family members.
An employee is legally eligible for one day of paid leave and up to two unpaid days for the loss of immediate family members.
An employee is legally eligible for up to three unpaid days for the loss of extended family members.
Here are the standards for bereavement leave in Quebec:
An employee can have one unpaid day of leave to grieve the loss of family members, including in-laws.
Employees with at least 60 days of employment are eligible for bereavement leave.
An employee is legally eligible for two paid and three unpaid leave days for losing a child, parent, or spouse.
Here are the requirements for bereavement leave in Saskatchewan:
The employee can take bereavement leave for their immediate family only.
An employee is legally eligible for bereavement leave after at least 13 weeks of employment.
Employees can receive up to five working days of leave.
Here are the standards for bereavement leave in Northwest Territories:
An employee can have three to seven unpaid leave days, depending on the memorial or funeral location.
While there's no legal obligation for paid days, an employer can grant this to employees processing the loss of a loved one.
Here are the standards for bereavement leave in Nova Scotia:
An employee can take bereavement leave for the loss of family members, including spouses, guardians, and parents.
The employee can have five unpaid leave days.
They have the legal obligation to provide notice to their employers.
New Foundland and Labrador
Here are the standards for bereavement leave in New Foundland and Labrador:
An employee in government departments can have five unpaid leave days for their immediate family members.
The employee can also take three unpaid leave days for other family members.
Can your bereavement leave affect your regular days off?
A bereavement leave typically applies to an employee's scheduled work days. For example, suppose an employee requests a bereavement leave on a Friday, and the employee's regular days off are Saturdays and Sundays. In this case, the bereavement leave can start the next Monday.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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