Bereavement is a time of mourning or grief experienced after losing a loved one. Bereavement leave is a time off work granted by an employer to allow the bereaved person time to mourn their loved one. Large organizations have bereavement leave policies, but bereavement leave is handled per individual needs in most small to medium organizations. The most common reason employees ask for bereavement leave is the death of a family member. Most employers consider the following as close relatives:
Children including adoptive and step-children
• Spouse or civil partner
• Including adoptive and step-parents
• Brother- or sister-in-law
• Father- or mother-in-law
The following are the steps to follow when asking for bereavement leave.
- Inform your employer as soon as you can
If a family member is ailing, you can openly discuss the issue with your employer. This will prepare them if you request bereavement leave. If you suddenly receive news about a loved one’s death, you can first call your supervisor before you submit an official request.
- Check your company’s bereavement leave policy.
If your company has a bereavement leave policy, it will be in the employee handbook. Review your employee handbook to understand the steps and requirements for asking and taking bereavement leave. Establish if the bereavement leave is paid and how long it lasts. Another thing to check is if your bereavement leave is detached from your usual leave entitlements or if it will be deducted from your vacation days. After understanding the requirements of the bereavement leave, take the option that gives you minimum financial stress. It might be better to use paid vacation leave rather than take unpaid bereavement leave.
Sometimes, companies offer paid bereavement leave to select employees, primarily full-time employees. The company may also require the full-time employee to go through a probation period before claiming paid bereavement leave. New hires, independent contractors, and part-time employees can take bereavement leave, but it will not be paid.
- Determine how long you will be away
When determining the number of days you will need to be away from work, consider your finances, mental health, and responsibilities. Many employees prefer to combine their leave and their bereavement leave after losing a loved one. If your company is generous with its paid leave policy, it would be better to take an extended break. You could also utilize your personal days, vacation time, or sick leave.
It would be best to create a timeline for the leave and work resumption to help you organize your thoughts. Note the date of the funeral, travel dates, work deadlines, and when to return to the office. Some people prefer to gradually return to work by working part-time, especially after losing a close family member such as a spouse or a child. If this is your intention, note down the transition period.
- Put your request for bereavement leave in writing.
After discussing your situation with the human resources department and your supervisor, write a formal letter requesting the leave. The written request provides a point of reference for both parties during and after the break. It is good to write a formal letter, but an email may be acceptable in some companies if you are out of town. Remember to ask if they need you to present your request at the office physically.
Your written request for bereavement leave should be sent to your supervisor or the human resources department. You may be required to include the following information in your letter.
• Your loved one’s name, your relationship, and the place or date of their passing
• The amount of time you need
• Whether you will use your paid vacation time
• Your actual date of return
• Your commitment to your job and employer
• Arrangements on who will take over your duties
• Your availability via email or phone to discuss work issues while on leave
After your leave is granted, ask for a signed copy of the leave documentation instead of relying on oral agreements. The documentation should clearly detail the leave’s terms to minimize confusion about your date of return and your entitlements.
- Provide relevant documentation and forms
Some companies require their employees to provide documentation to support their request to take bereavement leave. Such documentation may include travel documents or copies of obituaries. It is good to supply the required documentation as soon as possible as it will enable you to get the bereavement leave quickly. Other companies need employees to sign forms to ensure they get paid when on bereavement leave. Enquire if your company has such forms and return them on time for processing.
- Leave workplace notes
Remember to leave notes on your current duties to help your colleagues better manage your responsibilities while you are on leave. If possible, ask a co-worker to take over your workload. If you can spare some time during your break to answer work-related questions, leave your contacts together with the notes.
- Ask human resources or your supervisor to communicate your situation to your colleagues.
You can request your supervisor or human resources representative to inform your colleagues why you are on leave. This will shield you from answering questions on your absence upon returning to work. If you no longer wish to talk about your loss after returning to work, inform your supervisor or human resource representative.
In conclusion, it is good to take time off work after losing a close relative, not only for your well-being but for your job as well. You may even need months to learn to live without your loved one. This is especially true when dealing with losing a family member. You will go through a rough emotional journey, which may not be ideal at the workplace. Some people see work as a good escape from reality, but it is not the best place to be after a family member’s death. Therefore, it is imperative to take a considerable amount of bereavement leave to give you enough time to grieve and prepare you to get back to work in the right state of mind.