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How to Qualify for Bereavement Leave

What is bereavement leave?

Bereavement leave is a type of leave of absence from work due to the death of a close relative. It is typically used to grieve the loss of a loved one, which can be very therapeutic to do away from work rather than trying to cope with loss while not able to leave work behind – both physically and emotionally – and be present with loved ones. This time can also be used to make space for logistics around the death including planning funeral events, visiting funeral homes, coordinating with family members, travel to visit family or visit the place of death, and attend to matters. Employees who continue to work after just suffering a loss can affect the employee's productivity, mental health, and ability to handle their workload.

Is bereavement leave available to everyone?

On the national level, no federal law in the U.S. requires a company to offer bereavement leave to their employees. Bereavement leave is usually provided to employees as a benefit at the discretion of the company. The U.S. Department of Labor is quoted confirming the same: “The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require payment for time not worked, including attending a funeral. This type of benefit is generally a matter of agreement between an employer and an employee (or the employee's representative).”

That being said, the majority of companies (94% of employers, according to HR Daily Advisor) in the US offer bereavement leave to employees through either a separate policy or through paid time off options. Even though it's not a federal requirement, it's highly likely that your company offers bereavement leave of some kind.

On the state level, Oregon is the only state in the U.S. to require that employers offer bereavement leave as a benefit since January 1, 2014. Oregon’s Family Leave Act mandates that employers with 25 or more employees must allow qualifying employees to take bereavement leave due to the death of a family member. As cited on the website: “OFLA (but not FMLA) has bereavement leave which is the leave to make funeral arrangements, attend the funeral or to grieve a family member who has passed away. This leave is limited to two weeks and must be completed within 60 days of the date when the employee learned of the death. Bereavement leave will count toward the total amount of OFLA eligible leave.”

Do I qualify for bereavement leave?

Ask your employer if they provide bereavement leave options by asking your boss or sending an email to the Human Relations department, if one exists at your company. Your qualification status might also vary depending on if you are a full-time or part-time employee, or if you are contracting – since not all benefits may apply to workers of each type. Your qualification can also be dependent on your relation to the person who passed away (for example, the time off or eligibility requirements may vary depending on if you were a close friend as opposed to an immediate family member).

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Last updated June 15, 2022
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