California Laws Regarding Bereavement Pay

By Claire Gillespie - Updated July 30, 2018

Most people need to take time off work following the death of a relative, at the very least to attend the funeral. In the State of California, bereavement leave is not a legal requirement in a contract of employment. However, public sector employees may be entitled to paid bereavement leave of up to three days following a death in the family or immediate household.

Tip

California law gives some public sector employees, such as government department employees, up to three days paid bereavement leave following the death of a relative. Bereavement leave in the private sector is at the discretion of the employer.

California Bereavement Law

California law doesn’t require that private employers have to provide bereavement leave when a death occurs in an employee’s family. However, many private employers choose to provide bereavement leave to employees. This may be paid bereavement leave, or employees may be entitled to use accrued vacation time, sick leave or paid time off/personal time off (PTO) to take time off following a death in the family.

On the other hand, there are bereavement leave laws for some public sector employees, such as government employees. Those employees qualify for paid bereavement leave of up to three days when a death occurs in an employee’s family (related by blood, adoption or marriage) or immediate household.

The employee is required to provide advance notice of the need for leave to his immediate supervisor, together with documentation confirming the death. This could be a death certificate, a copy of the obituary or a memorial card from a funeral home.

Additionally, the employee may take an additional two days (without pay or by accrued sick leave) if the death occurred outside the State of California.

If the employee needs additional bereavement leave, he may use accrued vacation or compensating time off or take an authorized leave without pay.

Bereavement Leave Policy

If a private sector employer chooses to provide a bereavement leave policy, it is required to comply with that policy.

Depending on the policy, bereavement leave may cover the death of a family member out of California, or circumstances in which the employee is the executor of the deceased’s estate.

The policy should state how many working days’ leave the employee receives with pay and what relatives this applies to, e.g., a spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, child or sibling. It may also provide for paid leave in the event of the death of another type of relative, such as an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or cousin.

Bereavement Pay in California

California private sector employers have complete discretion to set the terms and conditions of any voluntary bereavement leave they choose to provide, including pay, provided the way they do this doesn’t unlawfully discriminate. This means the policy may offer paid or unpaid bereavement leave.

About the Author

Claire is a qualified lawyer and specialized in family law before becoming a full-time writer. She has written for many digital publications, including The Washington Post, Forbes, Vice and HealthCentral.

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