My Company Won’t Give Me Bereavement Pay

My Company Won’t Give Me Bereavement Pay

Question:

When I got word that my brother had died, I caught the next plane to Chicago and called my manager from the airport. I told him I had to leave right away.

He said he understood and he’d fill out the leave slip for me. I didn’t expect his later text, that said I could take up to seven days of leave, but had to understand that I was out of paid time off and it would be leave without pay.

I sent him a text back saying “thanks for nothing.”

I live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford unpaid time off.  When I told my relatives, they all said I should get at least three days of paid bereavement leave as no employer expects a person to work under these circumstances and few employees have the financial resources to take time off without pay.

I texted that information to my manager and the next call I got was from our company’s HR manager. She said our company didn’t have bereavement leave and that my manager had donated two days of his leave to my account and I should be grateful and she had put the word out to other managers. I told her that other companies have paid bereavement leave so that employees didn’t need to beg for it.

She said she was sorry but that the company couldn’t afford it and that I’d had a normal amount of leave, but I’d used it up for the year. This whole thing makes me mad because I work for a large corporation that can afford to pay the managers large salaries and surely could afford to help employees who’d lost a loved one. I’m supposed to go back to work in a couple of days, but I’d really like to do is quit and find a new job. How do I explain this in a job interview?

 

Answer:

 

I’m truly sorry for your grief.

You raise significant issues. What amount of additional paid leave can an employee expect when coping with a loss? How can you handle working for an employer that you feel doesn’t treat its employees right?

On your behalf, I called HR officers at fourteen companies and scanned through their personnel policies. I learned that bereavement and a number of other specialized leaves evaporated in the last several decades as rising medical costs forced many companies to slice their employees’ benefit packages. Eleven of these employers offer employees generic “paid time off,” which employees can use for any reason, including sick, vacation, bereavement or personal leave. Only two company’s policies specifically mentioned bereavement, each offering that employees could use sick leave to attend funerals.  One company no longer offered any paid leave.

I also realize you’re grieving and some of your anger at your employer may stem from that.  Also, you have two choices. You can look around for a company with greater benefits.  Most state, federal and municipal organizations offer far greater benefit packages to their employees than do private sector firms.

Or you can stay with your current employer, particularly if your job offers you intangible benefits you might lose if you left for a company with a better leave benefits. Private sector companies often provide their employees greater job flexibility, potential for advancement and other advantages.

So take a month to think things over. Decisions like this generally come easier once time wears off the sharp edge of your grief. Then decide – go or stay.

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