Bereavement leave - What Is it and Why It's Crucial for you Company to Have a Bereavement Leave Policy

Human Resources

One of the best things about starting a remote-first company is the people you will meet along the way. Instead of limiting recruitment searches to a 20-mile radius, remote founders can engage with talented individuals worldwide, building awesome communities of highly-productive, highly-skilled employees. 

But hiring your remote employees is just the first step. The next one is retaining them. While benefits like WFH stipends and learning opportunities definitely have their place, all the perks in the world won’t matter much if you haven’t considered your company’s approach to bereavement leave.

Research shows that over 50% of employees would think about quitting their jobs if their employer mistreated them after losing a loved one. At the same time, companies with thoughtful bereavement policies consistently experience reduced absenteeism, lower staff turnover, and improved feelings of employee belonging. 

Clearly, how your company shows up for employees during pivotal moments makes all the difference - both to their well-being and your company’s bottom line. So, how do you create a bereavement policy as a remote-first company? Here’s the NoHQ guide to bereavement leave. 

What is Bereavement Leave?

Bereavement leave is a period of time away from work that an employee is granted after the death of a loved one. It’s designed to support people in the aftermath of a loss, giving them essential time to mourn, grieve and, where necessary, take care of funeral arrangements, financial affairs, and more. 

Bereavement laws vary widely between jurisdictions. For example, China, France, Brazil, South Africa, and Australia mandate that companies give their employees paid leave. However, in many other countries, including the UK and US, there are no hard and fast laws.

Despite the lack of legal guidance, most companies proactively choose to implement bereavement policies, often providing their staff with paid time off after the passing of a family member or close friend. As a remote company founder, it’s wise for you to do the same. Offering bereavement leave is a crucial part of building a solid company culture. 

However, while traditional companies can design blanket bereavement policies, you’ll need to be agile and contextual. After all, bereavement leave customs vary widely in different countries. With a dispersed workforce, you’ll want to adapt your approach depending on where each employee lives. 

Bereavement Leave vs Compassionate Leave

Before we dive into the ‘how’ of creating a bereavement leave policy, let’s first clear up a common point of confusion: bereavement leave vs compassionate leave. Often, people think these terms are interchangeable, but this isn’t the case. 

Bereavement leave is granted to an employee specifically after the death of a loved one, while compassionate leave is the time taken off work to look after a sick relative or dependant. 

It’s a good idea to develop policies for both circumstances, as we’ll explore in the next segment.

Why Is A Bereavement Leave Policy Important?

They will always remember how you treat your employees during the toughest periods of their lives. Creating a bereavement leave policy is imperative to retain top talent, improve employee loyalty, and boost productivity. 

Here’s why. 

It Shows Support for Your Employees

In a landscape of surging employee turnover rates, how companies treat their people has become a competitive differentiator. In fact, research shows that workplaces founded on compassion consistently experience higher levels of employee satisfaction and loyalty. There’s no better way to show your employees that you genuinely care about them than through a generous bereavement leave policy. 

It Lessened Employee Dissatisfaction

Losing a loved one is a highly emotional and turbulent life event. Confusion about what leave is permitted in the aftermath of a loss only adds to your employee’s negative experience. By putting in place clear guidelines for bereavement leave, you’ll help both managers and employees better navigate this difficult period. 

It Helps Your Employees Deal with the Complex Grief Process

If you don’t give your employees time to grieve, their mental health - and your business - will pay the price. Research shows that decreased productivity and increased absenteeism caused by grief costs American companies over $75 billion per year.

How to Create a Bereavement Leave Policy

Your bereavement policy will act as a first point of call if an employee’s loved one passes away. It’s essential to design your policy with flexibility, so managers can make decisions that best suit an employee’s circumstances. At a top level, here are some helpful things to consider. 

Step 1: Set How Many Days the Leave Should Be

The amount of time off work you give your employees after a death depends on several factors, including the relationship between the employee and the deceased, your employee’s mental health, and their own thoughts about how much time they need to process their loss. 

Generally speaking, most companies offer employees a minimum of five days following the death of a loved one, with many organizations offering up to two weeks of paid leave. The number of days you decide to offer employees is at your discretion. We recommend taking an empathetic and compassionate approach.

Step 2: Decide If It is Paid Leave or Not 

As we’ve noted, there are varying national laws about paid bereavement leave, meaning you don’t always have to offer employees paid time off after death. Giving your employees paid leave is the best option, as it removes a layer of stress from an already turbulent time in their lives. This also increases employee loyalty, which is good for your business in the long run.

Step 3: Offer Support

The grieving process is highly complex and nuanced. Every individual reacts to the death of a loved one differently. To support your remote employees as much as possible, think about ways you can go above and beyond to help them cope. 

You could, for example, offer a day of additional paid leave for funeral attendance or even look at integrating corporate counseling services into your employee well-being program. NoHQ’s free guides and resources can help you build out your strategy. 

Step 4: Create an Official Document

Now that you’ve got a firm idea of how you will support employees during bereavement, it’s time to put your policy in writing. We advise creating an online document and integrating it into your company’s HR manual. 

Once you’ve done this, let your HR personnel and managers know about the policy, and give them an opportunity to ask questions about the process. You should also include the policy in your employee onboarding materials, so new staff knows your bereavement approach from the get-go.  


Here at NoHQ, we firmly believe that bereavement leave is a crucial pillar of any successful remote organization. When you look after your employees, they will look after your company. 

So, in everything you do, lead with compassion, empathy and consideration. Do this, and your employees will be grateful in the short-term and more productive in the long-term.  

If you’d like to learn more about successfully building and leading a remote-first organization, head over to our articles hub. We have all the tools and insights you need to help your remote company flourish.

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