Over the last several years organizations, especially in Silicon Valley, compete with each other by offering expanded parental leave benefits or unlimited PTO policies as a way to attract and retain talent. Over the last several months the newest growing trend in leave benefits is offering expanded time off for bereavement.
In February of 2017, Facebook announced the latest expansion to their benefits package which now includes 20 days of paid time off for employees mourning the death of an immediate family member and 10 days for that of a member of their extended family. The expanded bereavement leave benefit doubles the amount of paid bereavement leave that was available before.
The decision to expand Facebook’s bereavement leave followed the unexpected loss of Dave Goldberg, the spouse of Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg two years ago in 2015. Since the death of her husband, Sheryl has very publicly spoken about death and mourning and has recently released a book that she co-wrote with Wharton professor Adam Grant called Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy which focuses on coping and loss.
Facebook is also instituting paid family sick time — three days to care for a family member with a short-term illness, such as a child with the flu, and paid family leave, which allows employees to take up to six weeks of paid leave within a rolling 12-month period to be with an ill family member.
"People should be able both to work and be there for their families," Sandberg wrote in a Facebook post. "We need public policies that make it easier for people to care for their children and aging parents and for families to mourn and heal after loss."
Following Facebook’s lead, Mastercard also has made the decision to expand their bereavement leave policy for employees who experience the loss of a family member. In July 2017, Mastercard announced that employees will be able to take up to 20 paid days off for the loss of a spouse, domestic partner, or child; 10 days for the loss of a parent, grandparent, or sibling; and five days for all other extended family, including aunts and uncles.
According to Rosanne Cuje, Mastercard’s Vice President of Total Rewards, “We believe that no amount of time is enough when you lose a loved one. That’s why the company is not only focused on days of leave but also ensuring that some of the other everyday things are taken care of – for example, our health insurance policy ensures that in case an employee passes away, their family can stay covered up to 1 ½ years.”
Sandberg’s husband was the CEO of SurveyMonkey, and the organization also joins Facebook and Mastercard with the same 20 days of paid bereavement leave for the death of an immediate family member and 10 days for an extended family member. Sandberg is currently on the board of SurveyMonkey.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to provide their employees paid leave to mourn the death of a family member or to attend a funeral. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 60% of all workers and 71% of full-time workers are currently offered bereavement leave. Most policies are typically limited to three days for the death of an immediate family member and one day for extended family members.
ASE’s 2017/2018 Policy and Benefits Survey provides the following details about Michigan employer bereavement leave policies:
· 2.5% of employers provide their non-exempt clerical and technical employees and 3.2% of employers provide their exempt supervisory, managerial and professional employees with 1-2 days of bereavement leave.
· 69% of employers provide 3-4 days of bereavement leave to both non-exempt clerical and technical employees along with their exempt supervisory managerial and professional employees.
· Approximately 20% of employers provide five days of bereavement leave to both non-exempt clerical and technical employees along with their exempt supervisory managerial and professional employees.
· Only 1% of employers provide more than five days of paid bereavement leave.
It is inevitable that employees at some point in their career will have to deal with the loss of a loved one. Grief in the workplace is a widely overlooked issue and can cause a loss of productivity and workplace disruption for employers. Providing adequate bereavement time off benefits for employees can have a large impact on workplace culture and boosting employee engagement and productivity.
Sources: Fortune 2/7/2017, Business Insider 8/7/2017, Talent Daily 7/19/2017