What Is Bereavement Policy and How to Make One?

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The COVID-19 pandemic has taught businesses many important lessons: we had to adapt to the new reality of remote working and reconsider the importance of supporting employees going through the loss of their loved ones. Hence, nowadays many companies are thinking of developing bereavement time off policies.

Yet what is bereavement time off? Read on to learn the definition of this leave type, its best practices, and things to consider when building a bereavement policy in your company.

What Is Bereavement Time Off?

Bereavement leave, also known as compassionate leave, is time off provided to employees who lost a family member, such as a spouse or a child. Bereavement leave is not compulsory by law but if provided, it is meant to give an employee time to mourn and make arrangements, such as memorial services, funerals, resolving matters of inheritance, and other related events.

Companies that provide bereavement time off offer it as a separate type of paid time off just like sick leave or vacation time off its own leave time budget. When an employee exhausts their bereavement leave budget, they can consult their manager to extend their leave at the cost of their sick leave days or use unpaid time off.

How Does Bereavement Leave Work?

If an employee wishes to take a bereavement leave, they should notify their manager immediately about that. In addition to the manager’s approval, they may be required to provide documentation with regard to their bereavement time off.

If a company provides bereavement leaves as a part of its leave management program, they are most likely to offer about 3-5 days off, especially if an employee has to travel or attend religious events. Otherwise, employees are expected to spend other PTO budgets or take unpaid time off usually no longer than 5 days, or decide to work from home.

No law requires employees to include bereavement leave in their policy and pay for it except for the state of Oregon, which mandates 2 weeks of bereavement time off for any business with more than 25 employees. But if a company provides bereavement leave as a part of their employee benefits package, then the bereavement pay is usually calculated on the base pay rate at the time of absence and doesn’t include incentives, bonuses, or other special types of compensation.

What Is Bereavement Policy and How to Make One?

A well-structured bereavement leave policy should be a part of an employee handbook along with other types of leaves, describing employee eligibility, the leave request process, the amount of time, and more. Go through the following list of questions to develop a well-thought-out bereavement policy.

  1. Which employees qualify for the leave? Is it only full-time employees? Are part-time, temp, and contract employees included? Are they eligible as soon as they join your company or what amount of time are they required to have worked before they are? Are employees on discipline eligible?
  2. What relatives does the policy cover? Do you provide bereavement leave to mourn distant relatives and friends? Do you cover miscarriage or pet death?
  3. How many days are offered? Usually, companies provide 3-5 days. In case traveling and event arrangements are involved, you may want to offer a few more days.
  4. How many days off will be paid for? As long as companies are not required by law to pay for bereavement leave, your company is allowed to choose if it offers paid time off and for how many days of absence are paid if any.
  5. How will pay be calculated? The bereavement pay is usually calculated on the base pay rate at the time of absence and doesn’t include bonuses or other compensations.
  6. What is the leave request process? Are employees required to provide proof of death or the obituary note for the funeral program? How long is it supposed to take to process a leave request? Who is responsible for leave request approval?

Download Our Bereavement Policy Template for an Easy Start

The bereavement policy template by actiPLANS is a standardized document that serves as a guide when you need to establish your own rules for managing bereavement time off. By offering clear directives, procedures, and expectations, the template ensures that both the organization and the employee have a clear understanding of what is expected of them in the event of a bereavement leave request.

To use the bereavement leave policy template effectively, follow these steps:

  • Read through the entire template carefully to ensure that you understand all of the information provided.
  • Customize the template to meet the specific needs of your organization. This could include changing the bereavement leave duration, eligibility criteria, or notification requirements.
  • Communicate the new bereavement leave policy to all staff members. This should be done in a clear and concise manner, outlining all of the details of the policy, the process for requesting bereavement leave, and the consequences for violating the policy.
  • Train all managers and supervisors on the new policy to ensure they understand the requirements and can properly communicate it to their staff members.
  • Set up a process for tracking and reviewing bereavement leave requests to ensure that the policy is being followed consistently and effectively.
  • Handle all requests for bereavement leave in a sensitive and compassionate manner. Don’t pry into employees’ personal lives or require a detailed explanation for the leave. Instead, show empathy and offer support.
  • Consider offering additional support to grieving team members, such as access to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which provides counseling and other resources to support employees during this difficult time. You may also send a sympathy card or make a donation to a charity in memory of the deceased.

Download the bereavement policy template by actiPLANS here. 👈

Bereavement Leave Guide for Employees

Step-by-step process

  • Notify the HR department: As soon as you learn of the death of a loved one, you should notify their HR department. Provide information about the relationship with the deceased, the date of the death, and any relevant details such as funeral arrangements.
  • Confirm eligibility: HR should confirm whether you are eligible for bereavement leave according to the company policy. This may involve checking the length of service, the type of leave available, and the number of days allowed.
  • Get familiar with the leave policy: Read through the details outlined in the bereavement leave policy, including how many days you are entitled to, whether the leave is paid or unpaid, and any other relevant information (e.g., the necessity to use the earned PTO or vacation days). Contact your HR department in case of any other questions.
  • Discuss accommodations: Ask your HR manager if the company can provide any accommodations during the bereavement period (i.e., a flexible work schedule or the option to work remotely).
  • Inquire about employee assistance programs: Your HR department should provide information on employee assistance programs that the company offers, including counseling or support groups. These programs can help you cope with grief and loss during the bereavement leave period.
  • Verify documentation requirements: Provide HR with the required documents (e.g., death certificate or obituary). This ensures that you have the necessary paperwork to support your leave request.
  • Communicate with managers: In the best-case scenario, HR should communicate with your manager / supervisor on your behalf, sharing any details that are necessary for coverage and contingency plans. If such an arrangement is not guaranteed, make sure to contact your manager yourself.
  • Get reassurance: HR should provide reassurance that your job will be secure during the bereavement leave period, maintaining both confidentiality and sensitivity during this challenging time.


  • Opportunity for grief processing: The death of a loved one is a deeply emotional experience that requires time to process. So, bereavement leave allows you to take the time you need to process your grief and adjust to life without your loved ones. This can help you eventually return to work feeling more productive and focused.
  • Improved mental health: The loss of a loved one can be a major trigger for anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Having the opportunity to take time off to cope with your loss can help you prevent these issues from arising or being exacerbated.
  • Financial support: Some employers offer reimbursement for missed work time, which can be critical for employees who have legal or financial responsibilities to attend to in the aftermath of a loved one’s death. This reimbursement can also be beneficial for employees who are struggling to make ends meet during a difficult time.

The Pros of Bereavement Leave for Employers

  • Reduced absenteeism: When employees are going through a difficult time, they may need to take time off work unexpectedly. Bereavement leave can help prevent extended absences due to the loss of a loved one, reducing absenteeism in the workplace.
  • Boosted employee morale: Knowing that their employer cares about their well-being can have a positive impact on employee morale and overall job satisfaction. Offering bereavement leave can help create a more supportive and caring workplace culture, which can contribute to better employee retention and a more engaged workforce.
  • Increased productivity: By allowing employees the time they need to grieve and process their loss, bereavement leave can actually improve workplace productivity in the long run. When employees are able to take the time they need to care for themselves and their families, they are more likely to return to work feeling refreshed and focused.

Simplify Bereavement Leave Tracking with actiPLANS

To make sure bereavement leave requests are managed swiftly and employees’ time off balances are calculated accurately to the minute, consider implementing leave management software, like actiPLANS – it streamlines leave requests, automates paid-time-off and sick leave balance calculations, and displays employee attendance in a single team calendar.

Leave management in actiPLANS

Leave management in actiPLANS – create an unlimited number of leave types, get your team to request and plan their time off, and review employee availability

actiPLANS lets you create custom absence types, fine-tune your accrual rules, assign manager permissions to users, and give employees access to handy online team calendars and a free mobile app.

To never miss a single minute of the bereavement time and automate balance calculations, you can also connect actiPLANS with actiTIME – time tracking software to get a robust time and attendance tracking system.

Watch this demo video to explore actiPLANS in greater depth. 👇

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