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Bereavement leave in Australia for employees and employers

21/03/2024 by
The Marketing Team
Navigating loss is hard, and understanding the ins and outs of bereavement leave can often add an additional layer of complexity to an already difficult time. If you're working in Australia, it's crucial for you to understand your rights and the process involved. In this Business Kitz article, we will guide you through understanding bereavement […]
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Navigating loss is hard, and understanding the ins and outs of bereavement leave can often add an additional layer of complexity to an already difficult time. If you're working in Australia, it's crucial for you to understand your rights and the process involved.

In this Business Kitz article, we will guide you through understanding bereavement leave in Australia, how to apply for it, and the role your employer can play in supporting you through challenging times.

We'll also address common questions about bereavement leave, providing invaluable insights for both employees and employers. By the end of this Business Kitz article, you should have a solid understanding of your rights and responsibilities, and feel empowered to navigate these trying situations with confidence.

Understanding bereavement leave in Australia

If you're an Australian employee, it's essential to comprehend the rules and laws about bereavement leave. Let's delve deeper into the details of this specific type of leave.

What is bereavement leave?

Bereavement leave, also recognised as compassionate leave, is a particular, paid type of leave that you're entitled to when someone close to you passes away. Its purpose is to provide you with a breather to mourn and manage any necessary arrangements related to the death.

When is bereavement leave granted?

Naturally, bereavement leave is granted when there is a death. Yet, it's not an automatic right. You're entitled to it when someone close to you dies, such as a direct family member, partner, or someone you shared a close personal relationship with. Notifying your employer as soon as possible is crucial to ensure you gain approval for this leave.

What are the legal implications?

Bereavement leave is governed by laws and regulations. According to the Fair Work Act 2009, full-time & part-time employees get two days of paid leave upon the death of a direct family member or someone in the household. Casual workers are also entitled to the same leave but unpaid. However, the definition of 'immediate family' may vary, so it's advisable to review the terms outlined by your employe (no need to recreate the wheel, if you would like policies and templates created by our team of professional lawyers, you can download 5 premium documents for free now. Get started here. 

If you exceed the two days, then it could be taken as unpaid leave or deducted from your personal leave entitlements. Consider your situation and potential legal consequences before taking extra leave.

How to apply for bereavement leave in Australia

In Australia, applying for bereavement leave might be overwhelming, especially while dealing with a loss. This process can be made less daunting by understanding the steps involved, the documentation required, and understanding the rights and responsibilities you and your employer have.

What is the step-by-step process for bereavement leave?

The process to apply for bereavement leave in Australia is straightforward. Firstly, notify your employer about your need for bereavement leave as soon as possible. This is generally a verbal notification; however, your employer may require you to send a written notice.

Secondly, inform them of the anticipated duration of the leave. Remember, the goal is to keep your employer informed and ensure smooth operations in your absence.

What is the required documentation?

Depending on your employer's policies, they may require proof of death such as a death certificate, obituary or funeral program. It is recommended to keep all these documents handy to smooth the application process.

Please note that providing such a document can be sensitive, and your employer should handle this information with appropriate discretion.

What are the rights and responsibilities of the employee and employer?

As an employee, you are entitled to compassionate leave if a member of your immediate family or household dies. The Fair Work Act entitles full-time and part-time employees to 2 days of paid compassionate leave each time an immediate family or household member dies.

As an employer, it's important to ensure that bereavement leave policies are clearly communicated and easily accessible to team members. It's your responsibility to respect and address employee’s bereavement leave requests with compassion and understanding.

Moreover, remember that every individual copes with grief differently. So providing adequate support, respect, and corporate empathy is critical during this time.

Common questions about bereavement leave

In the unfortunate circumstance that an employee loses a loved one, it's important to know the specifics about bereavement leave entitlements. Here are some common questions answered.

What is the eligibility criteria for bereavement leave?

Generally, all full-time and part-time employees are entitled to bereavement leave in Australia. This includes casual employees if they have been with the same employer regularly and systematically for at least 12 months. But, certain terms might apply depending on the type of contract and engagement with the employer. Do you have all the correct contracts in place? You can search our repository of top-tier contracts here, for free and even download 5 today. 

What is the duration of bereavement leave?

The Fair Work Act 2009 stipulates employees are entitled to two days of bereavement leave each time a member of their immediate family or household dies or suffers a life-threatening illness or injury. You may take this leave in one continuous period or split into separate occasions as agreed upon with your employer.

How does bereavement pay work?

Employees, excluding casuals, taking bereavement leave are usually paid at their base pay rate for the ordinary hours they would have worked during that period. It does not include extra allowances, bonuses, or overtime. Casual employees are not entitled to paid bereavement leave, although they are permitted take unpaid leave.

How does bereavement leave impact other types of leave?

Bereavement leave doesn't come out of your personal or sick leave balance. It is separate and cannot be used in place of other types of leave. Those seeking longer periods may be able to utilise sick leave or other leave types, if necessary, but this is at the discretion of the employer and may require supporting documentation.

Supporting employees during bereavement

Dealing with loss is something that we will all inevitably experience in our lives. This process can significantly impact the personal and professional aspects of an employee's life in the workplace. A compassionate and understanding approach towards bereaved employees can make their journey towards healing less arduous and may even have positive, long-lasting effects.

What is the role of employers in bereavement support?

As an employer, you play a vital role in supporting your staff during periods of bereavement. Helping your employees deal with loss involves open communication, flexibility, and empathy. Employee well-being should always be a priority, and maintaining a supportive environment can prove beneficial for both your staff and your organisation.

Offer emotional support - A compassionate gesture such as acknowledging the loss and expressing condolences can provide immense emotional relief. Maintain open communication lines and make sure that the employee knows you are there to support them, understanding that each person grieves differently.

What are the initiatives to engage and support employees?

There are several widely recommended initiatives that can be adopted to engage and support employees during bereavement. Three of the most cited ones are:

  • Implementing bereavement support groups - these are platforms where bereaved employees can share their feelings and thoughts with others who are going or have gone through a similar experience.
  • Educational programs - these involve teaching employees how to deal with grief, teaching them that it is okay to feel lost and upset and also supporting them as they search for a new normal.
  • Counselling services - providing access to professional counsellors can provide a safe space for bereaved employees to express their feelings and work through their grief.

What is the importance of a sensitive and compassionate approach?

Adopting a sensitive and compassionate approach when dealing with bereaved employees is crucial. Remember that grief doesn't have a set timeline, it varies from person to person. This is where a flexible understanding and active emotional support come into play.

By showing empathy and understanding, you are not only helping the bereaved employee but also setting an example for the entire workforce. This has the potential to enhance the overall morale, employee satisfaction and productivity of your organisation.

Through supportive policies and procedures, organised HR systems, compassionate communication, and a respectful and understanding approach, you can help your employees navigate through one of life's most difficult experiences.

Final thoughts on bereavement leave in Australia

In this Business Kitz article, you've learned about the key aspects of bereavement leave in Australia, from understanding when it is granted to its legal implications. You also explored a step-by-step process to apply for bereavement leave, required documentation, and what both the employer's and employee's rights and responsibilities are.

We answer common questions about the eligibility criteria for bereavement leave, its duration, how pay works and how it is related to other types of leave. Lastly, we touch on the crucial role employers play in supporting employees during bereavement - a time when a sensitive and compassionate approach becomes paramount, along with initiatives to engage and support employees.

Disclaimer: This content is intended to be used for educational and informational purposes only. Business Kitz does not offer legal advice and cannot guarantee the accuracy, reliability, or suitability of its website content for a particular purpose. We encourage you to seek professional advice from a licensed professional and verify statements before relying on them. We are not responsible for any legal actions or decisions made based on the information provided on our website.

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The Marketing Team
Business Kitz Marketing team are experts in their field. You can expect the best business guides and updates on employment law here.
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