Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus convallis sem tellus, vitae egestas felis vestibule ut.

Error message details.

Reuse Permissions

Request permission to republish or redistribute SHRM content and materials.

When a Loved One Dies

What should we do when an employee requests extended bereavement leave?

Bereavement leave

It’s not unusual for an employee to ask for extended bereavement leave in the wake of the death of a loved one. Employees who need to travel to attend a funeral may request additional time off, and employees experiencing mental anguish after losing someone close may require extended leave. Although there is no federal law that requires employers to provide bereavement leave, five states—California, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland and Washington—have passed regulations that require both public and private employers in those states to grant bereavement leave in some form.

Absent any federal or state regulations, an individual employer’s policies and practices determine whether its employees are granted bereavement leave. Most employers do provide a form of paid bereavement leave, and some organizations have also established policies that provide extended leave if a funeral is out of town or an employee requests additional time to process their loss. In 2023, almost 91 percent of employers offered a form of paid bereavement leave, a 10 percent increase over 2016.

If an employee has a qualifying medical condition, such as depression, as a result of their loss and requests extended bereavement leave beyond what their employer offers, they may qualify for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Upon receiving such a request, an employer must determine if the employee qualifies for leave and if the employer is required to provide it.

Usually, if an employee qualifies for leave under the FMLA, their employer will offer that leave first, since it gives the employee the greatest protection. While the length of FMLA leave is determined by a medical provider’s estimation, under the ADA an employer may be exempt from accommodating leave if it is deemed too significant a hardship on the company.

If either an employee or their employer is not covered under the FMLA—because the employee has worked for their employer for less than a year or the employer has fewer than 50 employees—the employer should offer leave under the ADA. While leave under the FMLA or ADA is unpaid, employers are required to provide job protection for an employee to return to work in the same or a similar position.


John Dooney, SHRM-SCP, is an HR Knowledge Advisor for SHRM.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.