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Bereavement Leave Benefit – What’s Trending

April 23, 2021

By Michael Burns, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

With the reality that the loss of a loved one can be one of the most difficult challenges a person will ever face, most employers have provided a bereavement benefit consisting of three days (sometimes more) of pay. The historical purpose for this benefit was so an employee could make funeral arrangements but has not historically provided a lot of time for the personal grieving process.

Bereavement Leave – A recent survey conducted by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP) reports that 90% of employers provide paid bereavement leave. ASE’s own Michigan Policies & Benefits Survey reports that north of 95% of ASE members provide paid bereavement leave. Providing paid time off for bereavement has been practiced for decades by employers.

The IFEBP goes on to report that employers are reviewing their bereavement benefit packages to expand supportive resources and time off to grieve.

Survivor benefits – To do this 46% of employer respondents will payout accrued vacation, sick time, or other paid time off to extend the time an employee has to grieve. 28% of employers responded they also arrange for payout of accrued retirement benefits as part of this broader benefit package. Further, 48% of employers provide an employee assistance program to help with the grieving process if needed. 23% of employers also provide grief counseling. 16% of respondents provide health care benefit continuation beyond COBRA for dependents of employees.

One policy communications idea that employers can easily implement is to improve the bereavement benefit policy statement in their handbook to better explain the various bereavement and survivor benefits an employer provides to their workers.  Doing so will emphasize the benefits available for use in the event of the loss of loved one. The bereavement policy can remind employees that they have other resources such as the employee assistance plan (EAP) benefit available to use if they are experiencing grief and depression from that loss.

Another easy improvement to the bereavement benefit is to expand the definition of immediate family to non-traditional members. Today’s immediate family is much broader and may include members outside the standard of parents, grandparents, siblings, and children. The immediate family definition could expand to cousins, half-siblings, domestic partners, and even ex-spouses.

The IFEBP report points out that enhancing the bereavement policy is a potentially low-cost benefit that can go a long way toward supporting employees at a difficult time in their lives.

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