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Facebook's Generous Bereavement Leave Sets a High Standard

Employers are recognizing that employees need time to grieve

A woman looking out a window with her hand on her face.

On Feb. 7, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg announced that employees at the social media giant will now receive up to 20 days of bereavement leave in the event of a family member's death.

Sandberg, who lost her husband in 2015, said in the announcement that "amid the nightmare of Dave's death when my kids needed me more than ever, I was grateful every day to work for a company that provides bereavement leave and flexibility. I needed both to start my recovery. I know how rare that is, and I believe strongly that it shouldn't be."

According to the Society for Human Resource Management's 2016 Employee Benefits survey report, based on a poll of SHRM members, 81 percent of organizations provided any paid days for bereavement leave last year. SHRM's 2016 Paid Leave in the Workplace Survey further revealed that:

  • On average, four days of bereavement leave were awarded following the death of a spouse or child.

  • In the event of a death of a domestic partner, foster child, grandchild, parent, sibling or grandparent, three days of bereavement leave were given.

  • One or two days of bereavement leave were given for other extended family members of a spouse's relative.

  • Many organizations did not issue bereavement leave for a friend or colleague's death.

Generous paid time off isn't new at Facebook. The company's paid leave for new parents includes 100 percent of weekly earnings for four months (87 weekdays) following birth or adoption, SHRM Online reported last year.

Below is a roundup of coverage of the Facebook announcment and bereavement leave practices:

Employers Are Finally Starting to Deal with Death and Dying

Family medical and bereavement leave is the next frontier, and Facebook's foray into it could prompt other companies to follow. "Facebook is upping the ante in the race for skilled talent in the high-tech sector by expanding their paid bereavement and caregiving leave," said Lisa Horn, the head of SHRM's Workplace Flexibility Initiative.

Family Leave Debate Turns to Bereavement

The move is considered significant because Facebook is one of the major companies that took part in a wave of paid leave expansion, particularly centered on parental leave. Sandberg's post reiterated her personal experience with grief, repeating that she is grateful to Facebook for giving her the time she needed to take care of her children after her husband's unexpected death in 2015. "People should be able both to work and be there for their families. No one should face this trade-off," she wrote.
(Washington Business Journal)

Grief Support Can Help Bereaved Workers Deal with Loss

Employers should recognize the impact that mourning can have on bereaved employees and those who work with them. "People generally get three to seven days of bereavement leave, then come back to work," said Judie Bucholz, a professor at Columbia Southern University. "But grief lasts much longer. Employees often find that their concentration could be affected, which in turn impacts their productivity."
(SHRM Online)

Grieving a Pet’s Death: Should Workers Get Time Off?

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, San Francisco, is one of few employers that offer a three-day pet bereavement leave. Some units of Mars Inc., the candy and pet-food maker, offer one or more days off, flexible hours, or freedom to work from home after a pet’s death. Palo Alto, Calif.-based software company VMware and Maxwell Health, a provider of an operating system for employee benefits in Boston, both give employees flexible days off to grieve lost pets. But the concept is still so new that the Society for Human Resource Management has yet to take a stance on pet bereavement leave, said Edward Yost, SHRM-SCP, an HR business partner and employee relations expert at SHRM.
(SHRM Online)

[SHRM members-only content: Leave Policy: Bereavement Leave for Immediate Family and Others]

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