How much time off for bereavement?

Facebook have recently announced that they will now be offering staff 20 days paid leave for bereavement for an immediate family member and 10 days for an extended family member.  In addition they are offering up to 6 weeks for staff to look after a sick family member.  This would seem to be a generous amount of time off.  The BBC suggests that the norm is around 3 to 5 days paid leave and it’s quite common to see policies list the relationship and how much time off an individual is entitled to.

But what is reasonable?  The problem is that it depends on the individual and the circumstances.  It’s great to have a policy as it ensures that all staff are treated fairly, but on such difficult issues as bereavement is it really practical to have a defined amount of time off for everyone?  From personal experience, I lost my husband to cancer 6 years ago and the policy of five days off was woefully insufficient.  Fortunately I had a very understanding boss who let me work from home and take a lot of additional time off to look after my husband in his last few months as well as give me additional compassionate leave after he died.   Two weeks after he died I needed the distraction of work, although I’m not sure how effective I was in my job.   But it was extremely beneficial to have that flexible approach from my employer.

But what about companies that are concerned about employees “swinging the lead”?  To be honest it would be a pretty unusual employee who would make up a death or want to take additional time off after a bereavement of someone close.  But as ever, regular communication with the employee is key.  If there is real concern, then it might be advisable to get the GP involved.

In short, the Facebook policy looks great, but perhaps being so generous is not really necessary.  A policy with built in flexibility and management discretion is probably all that is required.

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