09 Jun How much time off can I take for a death in the family?
Question for an Ontario Employment Lawyer: How much time off can I take for a death in the family?
Over this past year, the pandemic has brought a lot of loss and sadness to many families. Mourning a loss is greatly necessary, so when an employee experiences a death in the family, the Employment Standards Act (ESA) has offered an unpaid bereavement leave which offers a two-day absence from the workplace. This two-day absence is offered per calendar year and applies to part-time and full-time workers who have worked at least two undisrupted weeks. The leave can be used when the death occurs, for the funeral, or for estate issues.
Bereavement leave is granted every year, and if not used, these days will be forfeited and cannot be added into the following year. The absence does not have to be two full days. If the employee prefers, they can take their leave even for half of a workday. Further, the absence does not need to be uninterrupted. Employees may separate their two-day absence as they prefer.
When is an employee eligible to take this leave of absence?
An employee may use their bereavement leave of absence for the death of family members. Bereavement leave will be granted when the deceased family member is:
- A spouse, (this includes common law partners and for marriages or partnerships with members of the LGTBQ+ community)
- A parent, (including step-parent or foster parent of either employee or spouse)
- A child, (which may be a biological child, step-child, or foster-child of the employee or spouse)
- A grandparent or step-grandparent of the employee or spouse,
- A grandchild or step-grandchild of the employee or spouse,
- A brother or sister,
- A relative that had relied on the employee for help.
How does the employee notify the employer?
The employee is obligated to give an oral indication to the employer that they will be taking their bereavement leave of absence. It is preferable that the employee notifies the employer before the leave is taken, but the employee is only required to tell the employer as soon as possible (the leave will be granted either way).
An oral indication is necessary, but the employer may also ask for proof that demonstrates the leave is “reasonable under the circumstances”. The documentation the employer may ask for could include records like a death certificate or an obituary.