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Ask Our Specialist – How Compassionate Should Employers Be?

Published August 08, 2017 (last updated November 19, 2020) -

The loss of a close relative will often prompt employees to take time away from work, in many cases this will see employees utilise bereavement leave. Bereavement leave can be taken for any purpose relating to the death of the close relative, and does not need to be taken on consecutive days nor does it need to be used immediately. This is often a difficult conversation to have with an employee and crucial to the continuing positive relationship between employers and employees.

Who is entitled to bereavement leave?

Employees, regardless of their employment type, qualify for bereavement leave if they meet any of the below criteria:

  • have worked for six months continuously for the employer
  • have worked for the employer for six months for an average of 10 hours per week, or at least one hour in every week or 40 hours in every month

Types of immediate family members

Employees are able to use bereavement leave following the death of an immediate family member. The definition of an immediate family member covers a number of relations:

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

What if an employee doesn’t have enough bereavement leave?

A situation may arise where an employee has suffered a tragic loss, and does not have enough leave to appropriately deal with the loss. In this case, with agreement from both the employer and the employee, the employee may be able to take bereavement leave in advance or annual leave in place of bereavement leave.

An employer and employee can agree to utilise bereavement leave if an employee hasn’t met the six-month criteria or if they wish to take extra bereavement leave over the minimum amount. Again, it is important to note this must be agreed to by both parties.

Managing bereavement leave is difficult and the process is often influenced heavily by emotion. Even in being compassionate for staff, employers need to follow the correct process. For advice on how to manage bereavement leave contact Employsure on 0800 568 012.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,000 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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