When you think of employee benefits, 401(k)s, health insurance, and in-office perks are probably the first to come to mind. More and more companies, however, are finding new ways to improve the workplace experience and support their employees through every phase of life.
One way they are accomplishing this? Bereavement care benefits.
To help us better understand the landscape of bereavement care in the United States, we talked to Cara Abbott, CEO and Brooke Wilson, Head of Community at Betterleave. Betterleave is pioneering the future of work and bereavement care technology with the goal of supporting families who are experiencing loss through administrative, mental health, and financial support.
What is bereavement care?
According to the Grief Recovery Institute, nearly one in four employees are going through a grief event at any given time.
The good news is that an estimated 92% of organizations currently provide paid bereavement leave. The bad news is that many only give three days for the loss of an immediate family member and one for other family members. Oftentimes, this leave must be taken consecutively and immediately following the loss. Additionally, these policies typically aren’t inclusive of friends, colleagues, miscarriages, stillbirths, failed adoptions, pets, and other grief-related events.
If you’ve lost a loved one, you likely understand the strain that a loss puts on every aspect of your life. Three days off of work isn’t nearly enough to emotionally process the situation, grieve, or handle all of the administrative tasks that often come along with a loss.
Bereavement care is an emerging category of employee benefits that includes but extends beyond flexible bereavement leave— and it’s one to be on the lookout for when finding a new job. While being able to take the time off is extremely important in a person’s healing process, the scope of bereavement care goes above and beyond that with benefits such as:
- Funeral and memorial planning following a loss
- Support with estate settlement, probate, and inheritance processes
- Grief coaching and emotional support
- Financial resources
Just as a company-sponsored health plan may give you access to a network of doctors and online telehealth resources, bereavement care providers like Betterleave make it easy for employees to access personalized coordination of loss and grief-related resources.
When can employees use bereavement care benefits?
Many believe that bereavement care only comes into play in the immediate days following a grief-related event. However, the reach of these benefits can extend far beyond that.
“Grief has no timeline and we all grieve differently so there is no one-size-fits-all approach,” Wilson explains. “From an emotional and mental health perspective, grieving individuals do not always know exactly what they need and, even if they do, tracking down tailored resources and support can be a challenge.”
Loss also poses logistical and administrative challenges. For executors responsible for settling their loved one’s affairs, getting everything settled can take upwards of 400 hours— that’s over ten 40-hour work weeks.
“Bereavement care looks like many things depending on the needs of the individual and how much pre-planning was in place,” Wilson says. “Loss is not something we are able to fully prepare ourselves for, and even if our loved one has all their documents gathered and wishes written down, there is lot to navigate on a logistical and emotional level.”
These types of comprehensive benefits also positively impact employees and their families in the long run, regardless if you’ve lost a loved one.
Recognizing and supporting grief creates a better workplace experience for everyone. Sufficient bereavement leave and additional benefits are a small but necessary step towards a grief-inclusive culture and workplace wellbeing.
How to evaluate a company’s bereavement benefits
When searching for a new job, it’s common to evaluate and compare benefit offerings between companies. During this process, don’t forget to ask about bereavement policies and benefits.
Keep in mind that not every company will have a partner like Betterleave. However, there are steps every company can take to build supportive leave programs and workplace environments. As you interview with a company, there are a few things you can look for.
“First, employees should ask for the current bereavement leave policy and how the company has historically supported employees navigating significant life events,” Abbott says.
Potential red flags to be on the lookout for include:
- The company’s bereavement leave policy does not exist or is not written down.
- They are unable to articulate tangible or actual examples of support beyond bereavement leave. This might also indicate a culture of silence that fuels disenfranchised grief, which is grief that goes unacknowledged or unvalidated.
“Most employers do not have an extensive playbook or training on grief and loss,” Abbott explains. “However, you should listen for emphatic tone, signs of flexibility, and resource support, such as bereavement benefits and mental health partners.”
Abbott also reminds jobseekers that questions around grief and loss are not only relevant for the HR leader or hiring manager. You can ask whoever you interview these types of questions.
“Your direct manager has immense influence over your ability to successfully navigate grief, loss, and bereavement at work,” she notes. “These are the people approving your time-off, hopefully finding team members or temp help so your work doesn’t pile up or deadlines go unmet, and ultimately impacting your return to work experience.”
Find an employer that cares
In your job search, you’ll come across companies offering all sorts of snazzy benefits. While a fully-stocked snack room may be tempting, consider the benefits and policies that can truly make a difference in your life— both in and outside of work.
“[Bereavement care] enables employees to have more agency over their lived experiences and get the personalized support they need to be successful and well at work and in life,” Wilson reminds us.
When interviewing, look for signs that the employer will be compassionate, supportive, and flexible in your times of need. Bereavement care benefits and flexible bereavement leave policies are just two ways that employers can show employees that they truly care.
If you’re an employer that wants to learn more about offering bereavement care to your employees, visit Betterleave.com.