Insights into global expansion & employee retention

Published: September 15, 2023

Who Gets Bereavement Pay? A Comprehensive Guide

Bereavement pay policies provide critical support during times of loss, ensuring employee well-being, legal compliance, and a compassionate workplace culture. Learn the ins and outs of bereavement pay policies and their impact on employee wellness.
Understand bereavement pay with Playroll

Key Takeaways

  • Bereavement pay is a compassionate policy that provides support and financial assistance to employees dealing with the loss of a loved one, permitting them to time off work without the without the financial burden.
  • Eligibility for bereavement pay is based on employment status and contractual terms. Full-time, part-time, and contract may be permitted to varying levels of bereavement pay.
  • Supporting employee welfare should be a key priority for employers. Employers that prioritize employee welfare can drive increased levels of retention, and engagement. Compliance with legal and ethical responsibilities is crucial, and embracing bereavement policies as part of corporate social responsibility can positively impact a company’s reputation. Supporting employees during bereavement can boost workplace morale and ultimately lead to improved productivity.

Bereavement pay is a form of compassionate leave and a policy that employers implement to offer support and financial aid to employees who have lost a loved one or close member of their family. It grants employees a leave of absence to deal with their loss, without financial strain.

The exact conditions that govern bereavement pay differ between organisations and legislations. Normally, however this policy allows employees to take time off for a specific duration, to cope with their loss and in some instances, employers may extend financial assistance to employees to help fund their travel expenses during this period.

Addressing Bereavement Pay in the Workplace: 6 Key Considerations

1. Employee welfare: Losing loved ones is part of the natural progression of life and can have a significant influence on wellbeing. Employers that recognise and support grief in the workplace, advocate for the well-being of their employees.  

2. Employee retention and engagement: Employees that feel supported by the company they work for are more likely to be engaged and dedicated to their jobs. Employers can implement bereavement policies, show commitment to their employee welfare and are more likely to see steady engagement rates.

3. Legal and ethical responsibilities: Bereavement pay is often mandated by labour laws and regulations in specific countries, and non-compliance with these regulations can result in fines, legal recourse or worse, reputation damage. Employers should also consider the ethical implications of implementing bereavement policies within their companies. 

4. Corporate Social Responsibility: Companies that embrace bereavement policies as part of their corporate social responsibility approach, can positively impact their reputation both externally with clients and internally with employees. It demonstrates the company’s commitment to employee welfare that extends beyond profits.

5. Workplace Morale: Offering employees support following the loss of a loved one, can transform workplace morale, by building a more positive workplace culture. A work environment that is supportive and empathetic can build a significantly more united workforce.

6. Improved Productivity: Giving employees the space and time, they need to grieve and deal with their personal matters, will ultimately boost productivity. This is because employees that feel supported Employees who receive the support, they need typically re-enter the workplace more focused and committed to carry out their duties.

The ins and outs of bereavement pay

Who Qualifies for Bereavement Pay?

Bereavement pay policies are put in place to support employees when they experience a loss, but organisation’s need to ensure that they establish clear guidelines for the types of workers that are eligible for this benefit. Let’s look at the 3 employee categories to consider:  

1. Full-Time Employees: Full-time employees are entitled to the full benefit of bereavement pay – which provides a lifeline during tough times.  They can access the maximum number of leave days to them as well as the full value of financial support if this is something that is offered by their company. 

2. Part-time employees: Because part-time employees are not part of the full-time staff complement, they may not benefit from the full level of bereavement support. For example, they may be entitled to an element or portion of pay, but they might be limited in terms of the duration of leave they take and may not be entitled to financial support. 

3. Contract workers: Temporary or contract workers are usually managed differently in terms of bereavement pay, based on their specific contract terms and the labour laws in place. Some organisations don’t have bereavement policies in place to support contract workers during a time of loss, so it is important for contract workers to understand this during the contract signing process.

How Does Bereavement Pay Extend to Family Members?

While Bereavement pay is primarily reserved for immediate family members, the definition of “immediate family” can vary by organization. Commonly recognized immediate family members include: spouses, children, parents, grandparents and grandchildren. This means that companies will only extend support to employees who have lost an immediate family member and not for any circumstance that extends beyond this.

Some companies offer bereavement policies that may extend beyond immediate family to include in-laws, aunts, uncles and cousins; however, this is not the case at all companies and should never be assumed. To avoid any confusions, companies should make their employees aware of which family members meet the policy criteria.

Bereavement pay policies may differ in different jurisdictions and are governed by nuanced legal regulations. Both employees and employers should have an in-depth understanding of these laws to ensure proper procedures are followed during times of loss. 

  1. Local and National Laws

Many countries, states, provinces and municipalities are governed by local regulations that highlight the requirements of bereavement pay. This may include the length of bereavement pay entitlement, as well as the family members that are eligible to take leave. Local regulations may suggest paid or unpaid leave as a requirement. In some instances, however, countries need to follow both local and national requirements to ensure that employees meet a set number of minimum standards to unlock access to this benefit type.

  1. How different Jurisdictions manage Bereavement Pay.

Many countries across the world showcase significant differences in their regulation of bereavement pay. Some counties are more lenient in their standards, while some are stricter. For example, some counties allow for longer lengths of leave, while others do not. The eligibility criteria also differ from country to country, with some jurisdictions extending support to employees and their immediate family members. In some jurisdictions, employees must give employers ample notice to be leave, while others allow employees to take bereavement pay at shorter notice.

What to Know About Employer Policies and Practices

The bereavement policies and practices that employers have in place, play an important role in how employees cope with loss, but also in how companies sustain the productivity of their workforce. What is key when navigating bereavement pay is creating an environment built on open communication and empathy. Let’s dive into the key things to know about employer policies and practices:

  • Company-specific bereavement pay policies and practices. Employers should implement polices with clearly defined eligibility criteria, including how much leave employees are entitled to and whether or not the leave will be paid or unpaid. To avoid any for misinterpretation, these criteria should be clearly communicated with employees. Bereavement pay is a sensitive topic and each employee circumstance is different, so while policies need to be put in place, employers should also use their discretion when considering how to support employees going though loss.
  • How to notify employers and what documentation should be provided? Navigating how to notify employers of a loss can be tricky, because it often results in having to take leave unexpectedly. The key to successfully managing the outcome and ensuring employers have systems in place to support and approve bereavement leave, is notifying them as soon as possible. Some employers require documentation to support and approve bereavement leave, these may include funeral service details, death certificates, and other relevant documentation. Getting access to these documents as soon as possible can streamline the process and fast track leave approval.

3 Ways to Handle Bereavement Pay with Sensitivity

Dealing with bereavement pay is a delicate matter that requires a high level of empathy, respect, and cultural sensitivity. Employers who approach this difficult situation with care can provide meaningful support to grieving employees. Here are three ways companies can handle bereavement policies with sensitivity.

  1. Demonstrate empathy and respect: Employers need to manage bereavement issues with care and respect, and this involves communicating openly, actively listening and acknowledging the loss in a timely manner. Employers should also respect how an employee chooses to deal with a loss and keep the mater private if the employee prefers to keep the matter confidential.
  1. Offer Additional Support Resources: Employers can go beyond simply demonstrating empathy and respect and can support their employees with additional support that includes counseling services to help them deal with the grief or implement flexible work arrangements that allow them to temporarily reduce their working hours or support them with paid leave and financial support for unexpected costs like funeral expenses.

Tailoring Approaches to Different Cultural Practices: Not all cultures deal with loss in the same way and employers that manage global teams need to be aware and sensitive of the cultural differences, traditions and religious beliefs of members within their teams in order to manage bereavement pay and unexpected loss in a respectful way.

How to Request Bereavement Pay

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy, and employees often need support, especially from employers. To help you navigate the process of requesting bereavement pay, here are three key things keep in mind to create a smoother process for requesting bereavement pay.

  1. Notify your employer on time: It is important that an employee communicates effectively with their employer when they experience a loss- this means informing them as soon as possible so they’re able to plan for your absence. Using the right channel for communication is also important, if your company policy is to communicate through the HR department, ensure that this is the process you follow. 
  1. Make sure you have access to the right documentation: In most cases, in order to access bereavement pay, you will need to get your hands on the right documentation, such as a death certificate. This type of documentation is usually easily obtainable from hospitals, funeral homes of government agencies.  Employees requesting bereavement pay may also be required to prove their relationship with the deceased, in which case giving access to birth or marriage certificates will be helpful. Understanding your company’s bereavement policies will help streamline and prevent any delay in the process of requesting bereavement benefits.
  1. Understand the Bereavement Pay structure, time frames and entitlements

Pay Structures and entitlements: Before applying for bereavement pay, make sure to review your employment contract for a better understanding of your entitlements, including duration of leave and any additional support employers might offer in regard to Bereavement pay.  This will give you a better picture of the amount you are eligible to receive.

Best Practices Employers and Employees Should Know

In essence, effectively addressing bereavement pay demands a considered approach that takes both employer and employee needs into account. For bereavement pay to have impact, Employers need to ensure that clear policies are put in place and that matters relating to any form of loss in the workplace are dealt with compassionately. Employees should feel supported by employers following the loss of a loved one but should also respect the processes put in place by employers regarding bereavement pay. By following these best practices, organizations can create a supportive workplace culture that promotes employee well-being and resilience during difficult times. Let’s look at three key best practices to bear in mind.

  • Establish clear bereavement pay policies – make sure your workforce understands the policies in place, how to request time off and the benefits they are entitled to.
  • Foster compassion and open communication – create an environment of support so that employees feel comfortable requesting time off and seeking out the support of their employers.
  • Balance company needs with employee welfare – ensure that you have contingency plans in place, for example backup staff in the event of unexpected emergencies, while remaining supporting of you workforce.

How Playroll Helps Businesses Navigate Bereavement Policies

With extensive legal and compliance knowledge in 180+ countries globally, Playroll can help your business navigate the complexities of country-specific requirements that relate to bereavement pay, while saving you the burden of administrative and legal costs.

As a customer centric platform – your employees and their issues – are our primary objective.

Ready to see how Playroll can help your business navigate the complexity of hiring globally? Schedule a demo to learn more.

Bereavement Pay FAQ

Is Bereavement Pay required by law?

The requirements for bereavement pay differ by location. Some jurisdictions mandate bereavement pay by law.

Can I use sick or vacation days for bereavement leave?

Using your sick leave or vacation days for bereavement leave will depend on the specific policies your employer has in place.

Can employers deny Bereavement Pay?

Employers can choose to either grant or deny bereavement pay, based on their company specific policies and local regulations.

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