Granting Dignity and Respect During an Employee’s Time of Grief

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Bereavement is one of those things that no one likes to talk about, since it is only necessary when someone has died. We, as humans, do not like to think about death. But when it comes to running a company, your rules on bereavement are something that must be addressed.

Oddly enough, it seems that even dictionaries cannot agree on the exact definition of bereavement. But the general idea is that bereavement is a period of mourning or intense grief following the death of a loved one. It is important – no, necessary – to recognize that we will all lose loved ones in our lives. It is likely that someone in your company will lose a loved one while working there, and so you must make your bereavement policy clear.

Hopefully, you understand that everyone needs time to grieve. It is a natural process. You hopefully also understand the effects of not grieving properly. Failure for a person to give themselves the time to process a loss can result in depression, anger, isolation, and even physical symptoms such as fatigue and ulcers. Because of this, you need to allow your employees to do so. Otherwise, even if your concern is not their health, they will begin to no longer properly perform their job function and will be absent more and more.

The standard in the United States is three days of paid bereavement time, although there is no federal law that requires a bereavement period. It is also important that your policy spell out the specific relatives whose deaths fall under approved bereavement. Many times, you will see the following:

  • Three (to five) consecutive days of leave with regular pay in the event of the death of the employee’s immediate family member: spouse, domestic partner, child, stepchild, parent, stepparent, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother, sister, stepbrother, or stepsister
  • One day of leave with regular pay in the event of the death of the employee’s extended family member: brother-in-law, sister-in-law, uncle, aunt, grandparent, grandchild, or spouse’s grandparent
  • Up to four hours of bereavement leave to attend the funeral of a friend or fellow employee

Your company’s bereavement policy must be stated in the company handbook. It should also include if supervisor approval is needed beforehand.

Making your policies crystal clear is an important part of any company’s standard operating procedures. Sneaking in unspoken rules will not look good on you – not only will you lose employees, but they will tell others about your behavior and discourage people from applying to work for you. It’s easiest for everyone if everything is spelled out.

The best practice in business is to always be courteous to your employees while still making smart decisions for your company. Workers need to understand that work must continue; however, it is your job to still treat your employees like human being.

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AJ Jewell

Amber "AJ" Jewell started at in 2016 as a part-time admin assistant, quickly moving to be the 'Duchess of Flow" - making sure that the office is flowing smoothing. AJ is also an award-nominated author, homeschooling parent of three, an avid reader, and a college student.
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