I’m making someone use their holiday to grieve over their mother’s death

The brutal and straightforward answers to HR-related queries and concerns. Send in your queries with the subject line ‘Ask JANE HARPER’ at info@thehrdigest.com. 

Hello! Long story short, recently one of my employee’s mother passed away. She has been off work for two weeks on bereavement leave. She now wants to take an off before and after the funeral. I approved her request but took two days off from her holiday, which she consented as she has no plans for the holiday. I feel I should let her keep all of it because of the circumstances.

For Your Information: This is in Virginia, USA.

 Answer

It can be tricky knowing how to extend condolences when an employee loses a loved one. From whether to send a sympathy card or flowers to whether to offer compassionate and bereavement leave, it can be difficult for employers to know how to best show their support to a grieving employee.

On average, four days allotted for the loss of a spouse or child, according to the Society for Human Resources Management 2016 Paid Leave in the Workplace Survey. Many employers give three days’ paid time off for the loss of a parent, domestic partner, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or foster child. A more generous bereavement policy might include up to five days’ paid time off.

Beyond offering compassionate and bereavement leave, organizations offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) to help workers struggling with the loss of a loved one, substance abuse, and other stress-related problems. Workers value empathy in their employers and extending bereavement leave demonstrates that organizations understand the workers’ needs during times of crisis like this.

We recently supported a company veteran who lost his wife. Alongside two weeks compassionate and bereavement leave, we also arranged for him to have the service. He returned to work in a less pressured role, on reduced hours, and after two months he was able to return to full-time hours.

When an employee’s family was killed in a house fire, this obviously had a huge impact on his physical and mental health. We hired a specialist who gave one-to-one long-term telephone support, literature and face-to-face counselling. Peer support also really helped at the time.

Ask most bereaved individuals, and they will tell you: The emotional process of coping with a loss is a long one. You are providing an invaluable extension of support to your employee by giving her two weeks of bereavement leave. But as an employer, you are responsible to keep the shop running smoothly. And that can be a real challenge.

You can re-examine your decision by seeking assistance from State and Federal governmental resources. Currently, there is no federal law mandating that companies offer bereavement leave. Virginia law does not mandate employers to provide employee bereavement leave. An employer may choose to offer bereavement leave and may be required to comply with any bereavement policy or practice it maintains.

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