Bereavement is a luxury some US workers just can't afford

Bereavement in America - A Luxury Some Can Not Afford

When grieving the loss of a loved one, a bereavement policy can be an essential source of comfort and support. It offers employees the time they need to cope with their loss. But bereavement policies fall short for some. Then, it’s a tough choice between leaving work for a funeral or just working through the pain.

If the worker is already struggling financially, covering the cost of a funeral and taking time off without pay might just break the bank. Not everyone can cover these costs.

What Is Bereavement Leave?

Bereavement leave is paid or unpaid time off from work that employees can take after the death of a family member or close friend. While policies vary from company to company, most employers offer between one and three days of bereavement leave. That allows employees time to grieve and attend funeral services.

In a 2012 study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sixty percent of US workers were afforded some type of bereavement leave. That was up from fifty-seven percent in 1992. So, while the numbers were on the rise, not everyone was given time off to grieve.

Bereavement Policies vary across the United States and the world

The same study looked at part-time workers separately. For those who only worked part-time or who were considered contract employees, only twenty-nine percent were given paid time off for a funeral. 

Why Should Employees Off Bereavement Leave?

In an increasingly competitive job market, offering bereavement leave can be an important way for employers to show their employees that they care. Employees who are supported during bereavement are more likely to stay loyal to the company. That, in turn, leads to increased productivity.

Employees should be aware of the bereavement leave policies of their employers. They should understand that taking time off for bereavement can be beneficial in the long run. When an employer is supportive of their employees during a difficult time, it can go a long way in terms of morale and loyalty.

The Importance Of Grieving

Grieving is an essential part of the healing process after the loss of a loved one. Taking time off from work to grieve allows you to mourn the loss without having to worry about work obligations. You can focus on the process of grieving and finding ways to cope with the loss instead of worrying about upcoming deadlines or missed meetings.

Additionally, taking time off from work to grieve gives you the opportunity to spend time with family and friends. These people can provide you with support, comfort, and understanding during this difficult time. It can be helpful to have the support of loved ones to help you through the grieving process.

Taking time off of work to grieve can help you to get back to work more efficiently and effectively. Taking a break from work can help to reduce stress. It can provide you with the mental and emotional space you need to process the loss. This can help you to return to work with a renewed sense of focus and energy.

Overall, taking time off from work to grieve is an important part of the healing process. It allows you to focus on mourning the loss and taking care of yourself. Time off can help you to return to work more efficiently. It is important to take the time to grieve and not to rush the process.

Death Is Expensive

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral ranges between $6,971 to $7,848. Of course, the price could be lower with cremation or higher depending on the family.

A death announcement from Eternal Alaska Urns

Some of the cost may be covered by life insurance. But most families who are already struggling will cut expenses like life insurance when times get tough. Plus, if an employer isn’t offering bereavement leave, they are probably not offering life insurance either.

Far too often, I see families posting GoFundMe or other crowdfunding efforts on Social Media asking for help to offset funeral expenses. According to experts, nearly 20% of adults aged 20-39 have used the internet to raise money for funeral-related arrangements.

GoFundMe has recognized those requests. They even have a special page set up to give advice on funeral fundraisers. They also have three free templates that families and friends can use to set up a funeral fundraiser.

Is It Just The US?  

According to my online research, here’s a look at how bereavement policies differ around the world:

United States

In the United States, bereavement policies are largely left up to individual employers. Some companies offer paid leave for bereavement, while others provide unpaid leave. The amount of time granted for bereavement leave depends on the employer, but it’s typically between one and three days. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 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). 

Bereavement In Canada

In Canada, bereavement policies are governed by the Employment Standards Act, which requires employers to provide at least three days of unpaid leave for the death of an immediate family member. The amount of unpaid leave available can be extended if the employer agrees.

United Kingdom Bereavement Laws

In the United Kingdom, the law requires employers to give employees time off work to deal with a death in the family. Employees are entitled to a minimum of two days of paid leave, but this can be extended if the employer agrees.

Time Off In Australia

In Australia, bereavement policies are governed by the Fair Work Act, which requires employers to provide at least one day of paid leave for bereavement. The amount of paid leave available can be extended if the employer agrees.

Germany Bereavement Rules

In Germany, bereavement policies are governed by the Federal Labour Code. The law requires employers to give employees two days of paid leave for bereavement, but this can be extended if the employer agrees.

Bereavement Leave In Japan

In Japan, bereavement policies are governed by the Labour Standards Law. The law requires employers to provide one to three days of paid leave for bereavement, depending on the circumstances.

What Might Happen If You Break Your Company’s Bereavement Policy?

If you break your company's bereavement policy, the consequences can be serious. Depending on the severity of the violation, the company may take disciplinary action up to and including termination.

For example, if you take more bereavement time than is allowed in the policy, your employer may dock your pay or suspend you for a period of time. In more serious cases, your employer may terminate your employment. The company may also take action against you if you use bereavement leave for other purposes, such as taking a vacation or attending a family event.

Employers are usually understanding of the need for time off in the event of a death in the family. But they must also take into consideration the needs of their business. If the company has a policy in place and you break it, the company may need to take disciplinary action to ensure that all employees are following the same rules and regulations.

It's important to understand your company's bereavement policy and adhere to it. If you do violate the policy, you may want to speak with your employer or human resources department to discuss the situation. Ask if an arrangement can be made. It's also important to be honest and open with your employer about why you need to take the time off and how long you need it.

Breaking your company's bereavement policy can have serious implications. So it's important to be aware of the policy and follow it. If you do find yourself in violation, be open and honest with your employer. Do your best to seek an amicable solution.

What Should You Do?

I quit a decent job once when my employer wouldn’t give me time off to take care of my mother’s funeral. Looking back it now, I was probably stupid to do that but I was young and didn’t understand finances. I was also extremely emotional because my mom was my last surviving parent.

Eventually, I got a better job. But the weeks off without pay after spending thousands of dollars on a funeral were a drain on my wife and children. It shouldn’t have been like that but it was.

Would I tell you it’s okay to quit your job? No. And, yes. If the company didn’t care enough to give you time off to grieve, they probably didn’t have you in their long-term plans anyway. Some companies just don’t care.

Before you make a decision that will affect your future, ask for help. Talk to someone you trust. Create a crowdfunding page for monetary help. Breathe. And think about the loved one that you just lost. What would they want you to do?

Stan Reese is the President of Eternal Alaska, a company that offers urns and Ash Scattering Memorials in the world's most amazing places.


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