Workplace Culture

An Argument for a More Reasonable Bereavement Leave Policy

By Jon Hyman

Jan. 11, 2018

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about death.

These past few days have been the first time I’ve had to deal with it on a family level as an adult. And there’s a lot to think about.

And it’s not just the grieving, and the crying and the mourning.

It’s also time.

And not just the time we spent with the one we loved and lost, and the time we will no longer spend with them, but also the time helping them pass to the other side while they are ill, the time planning the wake and the funeral, the time holding our loved ones close, and the time celebrating and burying the departed.

It’s a lot of time. And as we are spending that time, the world around us keeps happening, including the work world.

I am blessed to have a supportive workplace that has given me as much time as I need, but I am also fortunate that my job allows me to work remotely, to manage what I can via an iPhone and a laptop.

Many employees are not this fortunate, either because their employers are not as understanding or because the nature of their job dictates otherwise.

So, let me suggest that when an employee suffers the loss of a loved one, you grant them the gift of time.

Let’s eliminate bereavement policies that cap paid time off. Let’s allow employees to have time away from work up and through the funeral, to plan, and to grieve, and to mourn and to hold close those that they love.

I can assure you that if an employee is coming to work because you are not paying them otherwise, they won’t be focused on the job. Their minds will be elsewhere. They will be unproductive, mistake prone, and a safety risk.

Ultimately, these more flexible bereavement policies will repay you with the knowledge that when the grieving employee returns to work, he or she will be more focused on the task at hand, more productive, less of a safety risk, and more loyal and dedicated to you as an employer.

Jon Hyman is a partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com. Follow Hyman’s blog at Workforce.com/PracticalEmployer.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at JHyman@Wickenslaw.com.

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