Brookfield, Wisconsin—It may be the most difficult challenge an employee will endure in his or her lifetime: Facing the death of a loved one. Recent studies from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans reveal how U.S. employers are supporting employees through bereavement leave and employee assistance program (EAP) offerings.

Currently, most U.S. organizations (94%) offer paid bereavement leave through a separate policy or as part of a paid-time-off (PTO) plan. In 2016, 83% provided the leave as a paid offering. When creating consistent guidelines for paid leave policies, predicting the potential impact of a loss, regardless of the relationship to the employee, presents a major challenge for employers.

For bereavement leave after the death of a spouse, organizations offer:

  • Two days –  2%
  • Three days – 56%
  • Four days – 5%
  • Five days – 29%
  • Six or more days – 5% 

Organizations report similar policies for the death of a child or parent: 

  • Two days – 3%
  • Three days – 60%
  • Four days – 5%
  • Five days – 27%
  • Six or more days – 3% 

One day of leave is commonly provided to attend the funeral of an aunt, uncle, niece or nephew. 

"Historically, bereavement leave policies have been structured to handle the logistics of funeral and related arrangements, which is why we're seeing three days as the most prevalent plan," said Julie Stich, CEBS, associate vice president of content at the International Foundation. "However, employers are recognizing that employees need more time to process—to grieve—the devastating loss of a spouse, child or parent, leading to more generous policies."

For part-time workers, more than three in five organizations (63%) provide paid bereavement leave on a full-coverage or prorated basis. 

Beyond offering paid time off via bereavement leave, 85% of organizations offer an EAP, 63% provide mental health coverage and 22% offer stress management programs. 

"Expanding bereavement leave policies is a potentially low-cost benefit that can go a long way in supporting employees," added Stich. "The way a person responds to the loss of a close loved one differs from person to person, but such a loss is always devastating. An employer that offers extra time off shows empathy and compassion." 

Findings above were drawn from Paid Leave in the Workplace: 2017 Survey ResultsFlexible Work Arrangements: 2017 Survey Results and Workplace Wellness Trends: 2017 Survey Results.


The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans is the premier educational organization dedicated to providing the diverse employee benefits community with objective, solution-oriented education, research and information to ensure the health and financial security of plan beneficiaries worldwide. The International Foundation has more than 33,000 multiemployer, corporate and public sector members representing over 25 million lives. For additional information, visit