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Bereavement Leave: Frequently Asked Questions

Published April 06, 2021 (last updated June 5, 2023) - ANZ Head of Legal Services
employee happy they have access to bereavement leave

Losing an immediate family member or close friend can be tough for anyone. During this time, employees may be entitled to take bereavement leave provided they meet certain criteria.

As an employer, you want to be able to support your employees and give them time off work to grieve. As with all entitlements, there are certain eligibility requirements and other provisions you should be aware of.

When can bereavement leave be used?

Employees are entitled to three days of paid bereavement leave following the death of an immediate family member.  An employee may also be entitled to three paid days of bereavement leave on the end of a pregnancy by way of miscarriage or still-birth if they are an employee or in certain specified circumstances.

One paid day of bereavement leave may also be taken if the employee has suffered a bereavement in respect of any other person.  Part of assessing whether an employee has suffered a bereavement is how close they were, if the employee has any significant responsibility for the arrangements relating to the death or has any cultural responsibilities.

There is a definition of an ‘immediate family member’, which covers the following:

  • child
  • grandchild
  • grandparent
  • parent
  • sibling
  • spouse or partner
  • spouse or partner’s parent

This definition means that the death of an uncle or aunt, for instance, is not covered by the three paid days of bereavement leave but the employee would be entitled to one paid day if eligible.

Can I ask an employee for evidence?

You may ask an employee for evidence of their relation to the deceased. Understandably, this may be very sensitive for the employee so keep that in mind if you do wish to ask them for evidence and consider any difficulties in providing evidence in good faith.  Keep in mind that bereavement leave must be paid in the pay that relates to the period in which the leave is taken. 

If you do receive evidence from the employee, you can ensure that that information will be kept safe and secure with BrightHR’s document storage.

What employees are eligible?

An employee needs to meet one of the below to be eligible to take bereavement leave:

  • have worked for six months continuously for the employer
  • if they have not worked for six months continuously for the employer, have worked for the employer for six months for an average of 10 hours per week, and at least one hour in every week or 40 hours in every month

Employees, regardless of employment type, can take bereavement leave if eligible.  The instances in which the employee can take bereavement leave are unlimited provided they meet the eligibility criteria. 

BrightHR helping you manage your people and business

Contact us to find out how BrightHR people management software can help you manage your employee entitlements and store employee records.

How long can bereavement leave be taken?

The entitlement generally provides for three days’ of leave per bereavement.  An employee can take one day on the death of another person (that is, not a relation listed above) if the employer accepts there is bereavement.  Keep in mind there are separate rules if the employee becomes entitled to bereavement leave on a public holiday or while on annual leave. 

How can I figure out if there has been a bereavement?

Whether there has been bereavement or not depends on whether the person is a considered an immediate family member, how close the employee was with the deceased, their involvement in funeral, or similar, ceremonies, and any cultural responsibilities in relation to the death. Obviously, what bereavement is may vary from person to person.

What if an employee is not eligible or needs more time?

If your employee does not yet meet the eligibility criteria, you and the employee can come to an agreement to take bereavement leave in advance.  Alternatively, you can agree with the employee that they will take annual leave or leave without pay. 

If the employee needs more time than their bereavement leave entitlement, you can agree to them using annual leave or taking leave without pay. 

You can keep track of all your employees’ leave entitlements with BrightHR’s staff holiday planner. This planner can let you see all your employees’ approved and pending leave requests and their outstanding leave at a glance.

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About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small- and medium-businesses, with over 29,000 clients across New Zealand and Australia. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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