Guide to Bereavement Leave Laws in Florida

Updated

Legal editor, attorney

As sad as it is, death happens. And there’s often little or no warning. Planning ahead is almost impossible. And once someone passes away, things start to move very quickly. If the deceased was a member of your immediate family, you may be tasked with planning the funeral. A lot of details will need to be organized within a short amount of time. It’s likely you’ll need time off from work to manage everything. Bereavement leave can be helpful if you need to take time off. 

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Bereavement leave is a separate benefit from vacation or sick time. It can be used for a variety of purposes, including managing funeral arrangements, attending a funeral, and grieving.

There is no federal law that requires businesses to offer bereavement leave. And only three states have state-wide policies. The lack of federal regulation means businesses create their policies—and bereavement leave is not typically included in a benefits package. In some offices, vacation and sick leave have prioritization. So getting bereavement leave when you need it can be tricky.

If you're a resident of Florida you might have questions about the state’s bereavement policy— totally understandable. It’s always good to plan ahead, and it can be hard to know what’s allowed. If you’re a Florida resident, check out this comprehensive bereavement guide.

Is Bereavement Leave Required By Law in Florida?

No, Florida has no bereavement leave laws. Only three states mandate bereavement leave: Oregon, Illinois, and Maine - and only under certain circumstances. Since federal law is noncommittal on the subject, every company will have its own policy.  

Why isn’t bereavement leave included as a benefit? Employers may feel that when adding vacation days, sick leave, jury duty, and other necessary days off—it’s a lot. Adding bereavement leave pushes that number even higher.

Federal laws around bereavement leave

There are no federal laws about bereavement leave. FLSA, which stands for Fair Labor Standards Act, is the final word on many workers’ rights. FLSA has mandates for numerous situations. Child labor, recordkeeping, minimum wages, overtime pay, and many other things are covered.

Not including bereavement leave means that the decision trickles down to the state legislature. But as mentioned above, only certain states have laws for bereavement leave. Since most states don’t have a policy, it’s up to your employer.  

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How Do I Know If My Employer Offers Bereavement Leave?

Review your company’s employee handbook. Even if your handbook does have a policy, ask questions. You want to make sure the policy offered covers a bevy of scenarios. Research the policy for requesting time off, too. If you’re in the process of accepting a new job ask about the bereavement leave policy. 

How to Request Bereavement Leave

Usually, the human resources department has the final say when it comes to leave approval. Before going to them, talk to your boss. Having their support can make the process for requesting leave easier, and you’ll be able to elaborate on your circumstances if necessary. When you make a verbal request, do so at an appropriate time. Don’t ambush them in the kitchen. Schedule a meeting to discuss your situation and what you need. 

Many companies mandate electronic or written requests. This might be done over email, or through the company’s electronic portal. Even if they don’t require a written request, submit one.  Make sure you track both your written and verbal requests. After meeting with your boss send them a short email with the details of your conversation. If they approved a leave plan, include those details and ask them to confirm them. CC your boss when you send your request to HR. That way they can continue to be involved in the process, if necessary.

If your company is small and doesn’t have an established bereavement leave policy, prepare to be flexible. At a smaller company, taking leave can be difficult. There may be no one else who can manage your projects while you’re gone. Try to have a plan for the management of your projects prepared when you meet with your boss. If you prepare a plan, your boss may be more likely to approve your request.  

It’s also important to take your projects into account when returning to work. If you were close to the deceased, you may need more time than you think before returning. Especially if you are planning the funeral, you might need time afterward to grieve. Approach the issue with an attitude of ‘how can I make this work'? Working from home may be a good way to transition back to work. 

Be prepared to submit proof of your need for leave. This means your boss might request an obituary or funeral program upon your return. Even if it’s not listed in the employee handbook, or mentioned to you, try and bring it up. Be open and aboveboard with your planning—it'll be appreciated.  

Some employee handbooks don’t mention bereavement leave at all. If that’s true for your employer,  talk with your human resources team. They’ll be able to tell you the policy. Get these details in writing. If no policy exists, be prepared to negotiate. If you can, involve your boss in the process at this point. Ask for help with managing your circumstances.

What’s the Typical Eligibility for Bereavement Leave?

Bereavement leave is always a unique situation. It typically only covers immediate family members. If the deceased is your child, stepchild, or foster child, they count as family. It also applies to parents, step-parents, grandparents, and parents-in-law. Spouses also count. The definition of ‘spouse’ has been expanded to include domestic and same-sex partners. All these relationships qualify for bereavement leave. 

This definition covers most bereavement situations people will experience during their working careers. There are still personal matters to consider, though. Consider your employer’s response to bereavement leave. If they don’t offer it, what else can you do? Many people use paid time off for these situations. If you can do that, it’s a great option. If you don’t have paid time off (PTO) built up, and bereavement leave isn’t an option, consider unpaid leave. While it isn’t ideal, it may be necessary. 

Unfortunately, financial factors often dictate the length of time people take off. Bereavement leave runs between three and five days. This is enough time to coordinate and attend a funeral. It’s not anywhere near enough time to grieve and recover. This three to five day period is usually unpaid, too.

Companies based in Florida may offer something similar. But it will differ from company to company since no state laws are governing the process. 

Getting creative may be the only way you can pay your bills and attend a funeral if you live in Florida. If bereavement leave, vacation time, family leave, or unpaid leave aren’t options, what else can you do? There are a few options. Ask if you can work from home for a set period. Or ask if you can reduce your hours for a few weeks. While it doesn’t reduce the responsibilities of your job, it can help. 

If you’re willing to ask for a favor, present your case to your coworkers. They may be willing to offer vacation days. If enough coworkers pool days together, you may get time off. Even if it sounds like an odd approach, it’s not completely unheard of. Companies allow this ‘pooled vacation day’ option in some circumstances.

Getting Leave When You Need It

Hopefully, if you need to take bereavement leave you can do it without too much trouble. But no matter what, remember your priorities. Your job is a crucial part of your life, but it’s not the only part. Take your emotional and mental health into account. It will help you in the long run. It might even make you a better, more productive employee.

Disclaimer: The information posted on this site is provided solely for informational and educational purposes and is not legal advice or tax advice. Contact an appropriate professional licensed in your jurisdiction for advice specific to your legal or tax situation.


Sources

  1. “Compliance Assistance - Wages and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).” U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Labor, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/compliance-assistance/handy-reference-guide-flsa
  2. Senator Wilson. “Senate Bill sbb2192.” Florida Senate, Florida Senate, 2007, www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2007/2192/BillText/Filed/HTML
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