According to a 2007 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 69% of private workers receive paid funeral leave. Yet, MSNBC.com is questioning whether companies are doing enough for grieving employees. The article suggests that businesses provide longer leaves (anywhere from 5 days up to as long as the employee needs) and including part-time employees. As support, it cites a study by the Grief Recovery Institute, which estimates that U.S. businesses lose more than $100 billion annually because of absenteeism, mistakes, and low productivity from workplace grief.
There is no law that requires a business to provide for bereavement leave. It is a benefit, and entirely up to the employer whether to provide for such leave at all, and if so, for how long, whether it is paid or unpaid, how wide to cast the family net, and whether to require an employee to provide proof of the death. How you choose from this menu of options will all impact employee morale, retention, and maybe productivity (although I question the agenda of the Grief Recovery Institute). As always, when you apply a bereavement leave policy, make sure it applied fairly and equally across the board to avoid any appearance of disparate treatment and a potential discrimination claim.