Last week, Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, announced that the social media giant is now offering 20 days of time off for employees who are mourning the death of an immediate family member and a 10 days of time off for employees who are mourning the death of a member of their extended family.
Bereavement Policies at employers in USA
Sandberg spoke during a session at the Congress center on the second day of the World Economic Forum. Working while one is grieving the loss of a person close to them is not only challenging but also very difficult. Employees have no choice in many cases.
The Fair Labor Standards Act does not require employers to pay employees for time off to attend a funeral. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), around 71% of full-time workers and 60% of all workers do not get paid funeral leave due to death of a person in the family. However, according to BLS, for employers who do offer it, “the period of absence is usually limited to a few days (for example, three paid days for immediate family members and one paid day for other relatives).”
According to Employee Benefits report by the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) 2016, 81% of employers surveyed (under a poll of SHRM members), provide paid days for bereavement leave. According to the SHRM 2016 Paid Leave in the Workplace Survey, the employers give workers four days off on average after the death of a child or spouse, three days for a foster child, a domestic partner, parent, grandchild, grandparent or sibling and one or two days off for extended family members of a spouse’s relative.
That is good but it is a far cry from the 10 to 20 days policy of the social networking site.
Here’s why Bereavement Policy is great
Kate Wilber, Mary Pickford Foundation Professor of Gerontology, at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, told Forbes, “Family-friendly policies like the one announced by Facebook are part of a broader recognition by employers that it is important to support their employees as they balance their work and personal lives.” Wilber further said that extending bereavement support acknowledges the need of a family member need for time to regroup and recover.
Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute, was quite shocked, pleasantly so, by the generous policy of Facebook. She said that it is unusual for a company to offer this benefit.
She said that it means the world to employees if they feel like their company is there for them in a difficult time. She said “Employees think: ‘I try to be there for them when they need me. Are they there for me when I need them?’”