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Bereavement Leave: Are You Required to Provide It? For How Long?

It can be hard for an employee to focus on their work after the death of a close friend or family member. In addition to dealing with their own feelings of grief, they may also be responsible for making funeral arrangements and caring for other family members. A bereavement leave policy allows grieving employees to take time off work.

Although there’s no federal law providing bereavement leave — and only a few states require it — many employers choose to provide time off for employees following the death of a family member or another loved one.

Here’s what employers need to know about bereavement leave, including how long it lasts, which employees are eligible for it, and whether it’s usually paid or unpaid.

What Is Bereavement Leave?

Bereavement leave is a type of leave of absence specifically for employees who have lost a close friend or family member. Bereavement leave can be used to:

  • Grieve the loss of a loved one
  • Attend funeral or memorial services
  • Make arrangements for funeral services
  • Deal with other related responsibilities

Since bereavement leave isn’t mandated under federal law, it’s usually provided as an employee benefit, alongside other types of leave like sick leave or parental leave. The amount of time an employee can request off work for bereavement depends upon the nature of the relationship and the details of your bereavement leave policy.

In general, employees can expect 1-3 days of bereavement leave based on these or similar guidelines:

  • 3 days for the death of an immediate family member, including grandparents, stepparents, stepchildren, and parents-in-law
  • 1 day for the death of an extended family member
  • Up to 2 weeks for the death of a child, spouse, or domestic partner

Who’s Eligible for Bereavement Leave?

Eligibility for bereavement leave varies from one employer to the next. Your company’s leave policy might state that only full-time employees are entitled to bereavement leave, and part-time or casual employees are not. You might limit eligibility to the death of an immediate family member — or you might extend it to include an employee’s pets.

In some states, eligibility is defined by state laws that specify how much bereavement time an employee is entitled to. In other cases, the terms of your bereavement leave may be set by a collective bargaining agreement with an employees’ union.

Be sure to spell out your bereavement leave policy in your employee handbook, and ensure that your human resources team treats all eligible employees fairly.

What Should a Bereavement Leave Policy Include?

Bereavement leave: old woman closing a box

Your bereavement leave policy should answer all of the questions an employee might have about bereavement leave, including how much leave an employee is entitled to, how to request it, and what to do if they need additional time off work.

Here are a few of the most important questions to cover:

  • Which family members does bereavement leave apply to? The definition of “immediate family member” could include everyone from an employee’s spouse or sibling to a foster child or foster parent. By including close friends and loved ones in your bereavement policy, you can honor these relationships too.
  • How many days of bereavement leave are available? Consider establishing a fixed number of days off for covered family members, as well as the total number of workdays an employee can take for bereavement leave in a calendar year.
  • Is bereavement leave paid or unpaid? Bereavement leave can be either paid or unpaid leave, depending on your company’s leave of absence policies. If it’s unpaid time off work, employees can be given the option of using paid time off (PTO) or drawing from their personal leave of absence balance.
  • What type of documentation is required? Let employees know in advance if you’ll ask them to provide evidence, such as an obituary or death certificate, to prove that the leave of absence request is genuine.

Is Bereavement Leave Required by Law?

Bereavement leave isn’t required by federal law, which means that employers are free to create their own bereavement leave policies. However, some states have instituted bereavement leave policies of their own, including the following three states.


According to, the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) entitles employees to two weeks of leave following the death of a family member, up to 12 weeks in total per calendar year. It applies to employers with at least 25 employees. Eligible employees “must have worked an average of 25 hours per week for 180 days” to qualify.


California’s bereavement leave laws allow up to five days of leave following the death of a loved one. These days can be spread out over three months, for example, two days to make funeral arrangements and another one to attend a memorial service. If the loved one isn’t a family member, employers “may voluntarily allow bereavement leave to be taken upon the death of another person with whom you have a relationship.”


In Illinois, the Family Bereavement Leave Act (FBLA) allows employees to take up to 2 weeks off work (or 10 workdays) after the death of a family member, or up to 6 weeks for the death of multiple family members in a 12-month period. The law also applies to “stillbirth, miscarriage, unsuccessful reproductive procedure, failed adoption match or unfinalized adoption agreement,” and other related situations.

Bereavement Leave Best Practices

Unless you’re located in one of the states with bereavement leave laws, employers have a lot of leeway when creating a bereavement leave policy. Follow these best practices to ensure you put the best interests of your employees first:

  • Be sensitive when asking for documentation. Asking for proof that a family member has died can feel insensitive immediately after a loss — but it may be necessary if you suspect an employee of abusing your policy. By standardizing the documentation process, you can avoid intrusive questions about their loss. Consider letting employees provide an obituary or death certificate after they return to work so they have more time to come to terms with their loss.
  • Provide counseling and other forms of support. A few days of bereavement leave may not be enough for an employee to process the death of a loved one. Provide employee counseling and other resources to help them get through it, such as a more flexible schedule or help filling out paperwork.
  • Explore other leave options. Bereavement leave isn’t the only leave of absence that might apply following the death of a loved one. An employee may be eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for an ill or injured family member or to address their own mental health needs.

Take the Stress Out of Bereavement Leave Requests

Woman crying while talking to her therapist

The main purpose of bereavement leave is to provide grieving employees with the time they need to make funeral arrangements and attend funeral or memorial services. But it’s also an opportunity to support employees’ mental health and give them time and space to process the death of a loved one.

You can support employees through this difficult time by having a clear bereavement leave policy and a streamlined process for making a leave of absence request.

Pulpstream facilitates LoA requests of all kinds with our all-in-one leave management platform. From fielding requests to tracking leave balances, Pulpstream gives your human resources team the tools they need to guide your employees through the bereavement leave process and comply with any applicable laws.

Plus, our self-service portal allows employees to check on the status of their request and upload documentation securely to ensure their family’s privacy.

Request a demo today to see Pulpstream in action and learn more!