Legislative Compliance

Why it’s time to refresh your bereavement leave policy

March 17, 2022

Losing a loved one is one of the most challenging life events. Between processing emotions and planning funeral arrangements, the last thing someone needs is work-related stress. Death is a sensitive topic, so some employees may feel uncomfortable talking to their manager about their needs during this difficult time. As an employer, it’s essential that you offer care and compassion.

Bereavement leave is legislated in most jurisdictions across Canada. It allows employees to take time off after the death of a loved one. With COVID-19, many organizations have seen an increased need for bereavement leave. Loss can happen at any time, so it’s important to have a bereavement policy in place. But how do you make sure you are truly helping your employees? Here are a few considerations to keep in mind for bereavement leave policies.

Employees need time to grieve

The death of a loved one can affect every aspect of someone’s life, even long after the initial loss. Day-to-day activities like getting out of bed or eating can feel overwhelming. Returning to work might be far from their mind.

Many bereavement policies only give employees a few days off work. Following a death, not only is your employee coping with grief, but they may also be planning and attending the funeral, informing friends and family, or dealing with an estate or other matters. For many, a couple of days away from work is just not enough time.

As your employees work through their grief, some may need additional time off right after the loss. Others may need time away from work weeks or even months later. It’s important to recognize that grief comes in stages and will affect every employee differently. Researchers have found that reminders of loved ones can set off new waves of grief, which can last two years or more. Bereavement policies that are flexible will better support your employees’ unique needs.

Expect an adjustment period when employees return

Dealing with grief can continue to directly affect an employee as well as your organization after a bereavement leave. Many people find it difficult or even impossible to transition back to their work routine. However, others may be eager to dive back into work as part of their healing process. If an employee comes back before they are ready, it can affect attendance, productivity and performance, mood and morale, interactions with others, and attention and accuracy.

It’s important to support employees when they return from a leave. This is a delicate time as employees try to settle into what was once their normal routine. Consider checking in with employees about their work preferences. For example, allowing them to work from home or reducing their workload could ease their adjustment back to work.

Employees may need ongoing support

Grief comes and goes and may affect your employees at any point. Supporting mental health and wellness in the workplace is always important. When employees are grieving, workplace mental health resources can be invaluable. Chat with the employee to see whether there are specific resources that would be helpful, such as counselling services.

If an employee is not given the time off they need or they don’t feel supported when they return, it may lead to higher turnover rates. On the other hand, showing compassion and care can improve employee trust and loyalty. Employees notice when their workplace supports them through challenging times.

What to know about bereavement leave

In most jurisdictions across Canada, time off for bereavement is a standard, job-protected leave. But aside from what is legislated, is your business doing enough to help employees through loss? As you create or modify your bereavement leave policy, remember that every employee’s situation is unique. Flexibility is key for supporting your staff through difficult times.

To help you develop or update your bereavement leave policy, we have put together a FREE Guide to Bereavement Leave Policies. In this guide, our experts answer common questions, including:

  • Is bereavement leave mandatory in Canada?
  • Who qualifies for bereavement leave?
  • How can employers support employees through grief?

Download now!