Employers face several issues in today’s world in which they are required to weigh the two words “equity” and “equality” very carefully. When it comes to bereavement issues in the work place, there is rarely a situation in which the rule “one-size-fits-all” comes into play. The way in which death impacts individuals is so unique, that a review of legal rights reveals a lack of adequate assistance and even compensation in the event of death or loss of a loved one.
Studies show that employers are more likely to give “compassionate” time off and/or assistance to those who have lost a loved one as compared to losing a friend. Further studies reveal that this can change depending on the gender of the person requiring time off. Because there are usually no written legal obligations to the employer, untimely deaths run into a grey area for employees and rely on employer discretion.
Policies exist in unions where employers are required to provide assistance or “reasonable” leave should a bereavement occur. This is often times restricted to allowing time for the employee to take care of any logistical and legal matters that arise. Furthermore, these situations are almost always limited to death of family and not to friends. For employees under a contract, some employers may choose to allow them to take paid time off or unpaid time off to deal with matters. However, the employer is not obligated in any way.
Employees who are forced to work under strenuous circumstances after the loss of a family, loved one, colleague, or friend are a potential hazard to the business and to themselves. Grief and loss affect everyone in different ways, and some employees are even unable to tell if they are suffering the symptoms or not. Although there may not be legal rights available, that does not mean that there should not be a policy in place by the employer regarding such circumstances.
Legal experts suggest that when a situation occurs, both parties review their legal rights within the confines of the workplace. Then, a conversation should occur been both parties as to the amount of leave needed, if it be paid or unpaid, and any repercussions that can happen. It should be made clear and even put down in writing the expectations and final conclusions that are decided upon by both parties.
Finally, employers should be aware of other forms of loss that may impact their employees. For example, the loss of a pet can be a serious tragedy within a family. It can have just as much power as that of a human being. The same is true for family friends.
For employees that are dealing with such a situation, they should review their contracts and have a conversation with the employer themselves to determine the policy in such cases. For further assistance, employees should consider making some Reviews of Legal Services available to them, especially if they are finding unfavorable circumstances surrounding such a bereavement.