What Are the Bereavement Leave Laws in Ohio?


Legal editor, attorney

Taking some time off after you lose a loved one can be a great relief. You might need a few days away from work to cope emotionally. You may need to make funeral arrangements or handle financial and family matters. 

When you take time off from work after the death of a close family member, it’s called bereavement leave. You may also hear it referred to as funeral leave. 

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Bereavement leave laws differ from state to state. If you live in Ohio, this article will help you navigate the choppy waters of bereavement leave in your state. 

Do Employers Have to Provide Bereavement Leave?

In short, no. Private employers don’t have to provide bereavement leave to their employees.

If you work for a private business or organization in Ohio, the decision to grant bereavement leave or not is fully up to your employer. 

Federal laws on bereavement leave

Federally, the United States Department of Labor doesn’t mandate bereavement leave. That leaves the laws regulating funeral leave up to individual state governments. 

Only one state in the U.S. requires employers to offer bereavement leave to their employees for the death of an immediate family member. That state is Oregon. If you don’t live in Oregon, and you work for a private employer, your bereavement leave benefits are up to your employer. 

State of Ohio’s laws on bereavement leave

As mentioned, you’re not entitled to bereavement leave by your state government if you live in Ohio and work for a private employer. 

That means if you work for a business, a private organization, or a corporation, your employer has the option to offer you funeral leave benefits but is not required to. 

If you work for a government employer, though, you fall into a different category. As an employee of the United States or State of Ohio government, you’re entitled to bereavement leave after the loss of an immediate family member. 

Employees of the state of Ohio get up to three consecutive days of paid bereavement leave, and are also allowed to use up to five sick days for bereavement purposes. If you’re a federal employee you may be entitled to up to 13 days of sick leave for family care and bereavement purposes.

How Do You Get Bereavement Leave From Your Employer?

Your employer doesn’t have to offer bereavement leave based on state and federal regulations if you live in Ohio. But that doesn’t mean private employers always refuse to offer funeral leave to their employees. 

In fact, many large companies and medium-sized businesses offer bereavement leave as a benefit. Alternatively, your employment contract might include paid-time-off or sick pay that you can use for bereavement purposes. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 60% of all private employers in the United States offer paid bereavement leave in one form or another. 

Who’s included in “immediate family”?

If bereavement leave is part of your employment contract, you’ll see the term “immediate family” pop up at least once or twice. This is the case for federal and state employees who are entitled to funeral leave, too. 

If you lose a loved one and want to take bereavement leave, you’ll need to know whether or not they qualify as “immediate family.” According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, immediate family includes the following: 

  • Parents, step-parents, and parents-in-law 
  • Spouses and domestic partners
  • Foster parents and guardians
  • Children, adopted children, foster children, and step-children
  • Brothers and sisters
  • Grandparents 
  • Grandchildren

Many employers only offer time off for the loss of an immediate family member. However, some employers offer bereavement time for more than just immediate family. Your employer might offer one day off for the death of an extended family member or close friend, for example. 

How long does bereavement leave last?

The standard amount of time that most employers offer for bereavement is three days. Your employer might grant more time or less, but three days is the average. 

If you have access to paid time off, you might be able to use some of your vacation or sick time to cope with a loss. However, many employers have limits when it comes to how many days you can take off in a row. 

Another common tactic is “borrowing” sick days from your fellow employees. When a co-worker experiences a tragic loss, a workplace might band together to donate their sick days. That is, if your employer allows it. 

Do you need proof that someone died in order to get bereavement leave?

Many employers ask for evidence of a death before they grant bereavement leave. If you plan on asking your employer for bereavement leave, be prepared to offer proof. 

Depending on where you work, you might have to bring in physical evidence. Some employers simply ask for the name of the deceased and some additional information about them. 

If you have to provide physical proof of the death, ask your employer what qualifies or look to your employment contract for guidance. A funeral program usually suffices. 

Alternatively, you can bring in a written voucher from the funeral home stating that you’re holding a service on a certain day. 

If you’re not holding a funeral for the deceased, but you still want funeral time, consider publishing an obituary in the newspaper. This can serve as physical proof, and it can also inform the community of your loved one’s passing. As a last option, you can obtain a copy of the death certificate. 

Can You Use FMLA for Bereavement Leave in Ohio? 

If you’ve been researching paid time off, you may have heard or read about the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 

A common misconception is that you can use FMLA for bereavement leave. But, unfortunately, this government-mandated time off doesn’t apply to bereavement. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, people who work in schools, public agencies, and large companies are entitled to up to 12 weeks off per year (unpaid). 

But you can only use FMLA to take time off for: 

  • The birth of a child and care of a newborn child
  • The adoption of a child or placement of a foster child
  • Caring for an immediate family member
  • Medical leave if you’re unable to work due to a serious health issue

Is Bereavement Leave Paid or Unpaid? 

As mentioned above, more than half of all private employees in the United States have access to paid bereavement leave. 

In general, you can think of paid bereavement leave as a benefit much like sick pay, healthcare, and vacation time. People who work for large companies are more likely to have bereavement leave benefits. 

Additionally, working for a public agency ensures that you have some paid time off for bereavement. 

Funeral Leave vs. Bereavement Leave

Sometimes, you’ll see bereavement leave referred to as “funeral leave.” In fact, funeral leave and bereavement leave are two different things. When you request time off after the death of a loved one, make sure you know which one applies to you. 

Funeral leave

Funeral leave is more restrictive than bereavement leave. It’s specifically designated time meant for you to plan and attend a funeral. Generally, funeral leave is only one to three days.

During funeral leave, you’re not supposed to use your time for anything other than funerary activities. Once those are done, you’re expected to return to work. 

Bereavement leave

Bereavement leave is a more general time off meant to help you cope with a loss. You can use your time to plan and attend a funeral.

But you can also spend more time at home and with family. Bereavement time may last one to three days, but it sometimes lasts up to a week or even longer. 

Taking Bereavement Time in Ohio

Taking bereavement time in Ohio is much the same as taking it anywhere else in the United States. Other than Oregon, no state in the nation currently mandates bereavement leave for the death of any immediate family member. However, employers tend to offer funeral leave as an incentive along with sick pay and vacation time. 

When you take bereavement leave, it’s important to dedicate your time to handling your loss. Take as much time as you can to process your grief, but also make time in your schedule for paperwork. 

There’s a lot that needs to get done when someone dies, and if you’re the one responsible, you’ll need those three days. 

If you're looking for ideas on how to express condolences if you can't go to the funeral, check out our guides to funeral flowers, how to write a sympathy card, and how to write a condolences email.

If you're an Ohio resident and ready to start preparing your own end-of-life planning documents, Cake has Advance Care Planning forms you can download. To help ease your planning, we have all the documents you need in one place.

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.

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