Staff on Bereavement Leave

Nick Babington

May 28 2019

The death of a loved one is an extremely difficult situation for anyone. As an employer, it is important to prepare yourself to manage bereavement in the workplace. As with any type of leave, with the ever-changing employment relations landscape, there is often confusion surrounding bereavement. In Alberta, all employees are entitled to unpaid bereavement leave if they are employed for at least 90 days with the business. An employer can also provide bereavement leave to employees who have less than 90 days of service, but it is not required under the Alberta Employment Standard Code. Employees are entitled to 3 unpaid days of bereavement leave per calendar year, which cannot be carried over to another calendar year. Employers can offer additional leave if they see fit.  

What family members are covered by bereavement leave?

A main area of confusion is the relationship surrounding the employee and the deceased person. The Employment Standards Code states that bereavement leave can be taken after the death of an immediate or extended family member. This includes, among other family members, a spouse, child, grandchild, parent, step-parent, sibling, and others.

How much notice does an employee have to provide?

Employees are required to give their employer reasonable notice before taking bereavement leave or as soon as is reasonably possible after beginning the leave. Employees are not required to provide a medical certificate, but employers can establish their own policies for documentation if they so choose. Bereavement leave can be taken at the time of the family member’s death or at some later time to attend a funeral or memorial service.  

Supporting your employees

While there isn’t a statutory duty for employers to provide support to employees, the emergence of employee assistance programmes has seen businesses invest in the wellbeing of their workforce. An employee assistance programme can provide trained counsellors to provide reassurance and guidance and help to reassure the employee through this difficult time.  

Importance of policies

Having a policy in place and making employees aware of the rules surrounding bereavement leave is an important way to avoid making an employee’s situation worse than it already is when a family member passes away. A bereavement leave policy is always advisable, as it will avoid confusion by ensuring that employees are aware of their entitlement to time off as well as notice requirements.

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