Creating a bereavement leave policy that works for all employees is key to supporting a healthy and diverse workforce. And new research from LeanIn.org in partnership with McKinsey & Company reveals that offering a comprehensive policy may also be essential to retaining women in the workplace—especially those from marginalized backgrounds. The 2023 Women in the Workplace report—the largest study of women in corporate America—finds that a quarter of women report bereavement leave as a top employee benefit, even over parental leave and caregiver benefits. Companies that fail to offer it risk losing valuable talent that they are already likely lacking or striving to retain.
These findings are from the 2023 Women in the Workplace study.
Employees value bereavement leave, but women–especially those with traditionally marginalized identities–want it the most.
- Women and men rank bereavement leave among the top five most important employee benefits–following healthcare, remote work options, and mental health care.
- 35% of Black women, 32% of women with disabilities, and 31% of LGBTQ+ women say bereavement leave is a critical benefit.
- A comprehensive bereavement leave policy is crucial to fostering an inclusive workplace. Narrow limits around bereavement leave, and for whom it can be taken, can exclude employees with same-sex partners or who belong to cultures or identities that honor close extended and/or nontraditional families.1
Although a majority of companies offer bereavement leave, a minority provide the flexibility that grieving employees need.
- While 98% of employers offered bereavement leave to their employees in 2023, only 44% of companies offered non-consecutive leave–or leave that can be taken intermittently throughout the year. This type of leave reflects the reality that grief is a non-linear process that often comes in waves.
- Research finds that offering flexibility in bereavement policies is equally as important as the number of days employees are permitted to take off. Flexibility in when employees are able to utilize leave time can help them to settle a loved one’s personal affairs—tasks that can take on average one hour per workday over a number of months. 2
“In my experience you need two periods of grief leave. The initial time for the admin, funeral and logistics. Then, a later date or period whenever you see fit and ready to process. The two haven’t been linear for me and I know a time will come up in coming months where stepping back will be key.”
— Emma, Option B 2023 Community Survey
Few companies offer more than 3-5 days of bereavement leave
- Only 1 in 5 companies offer more than 5 days of bereavement leave, though experts recommend taking 20 days off work after the passing of a close family member. 3
- 35% of employers offer 1 to 3 days of leave, and 45% offer 4 to 5 days.
"My parents died in a car accident, and my boss gave me three days off. It was not even enough time to finish the funeral. I wanted more leave, and my boss said he understood but there is no way since the company system is like this.”
— Addie, Option B 2023 Community Survey
Survey methodologyThese findings are from the 2023 Women in the Workplace study. It includes data collected from HR leaders at 274 companies regarding company policies and practices. Companies represent a broad range of industries and all participating companies employ at least 1,000 people in North America. The study also includes survey data on employee experiences collected from more than 27,000 employees at 33 of these companies. For more information on the Women in the Workplace study methodology and findings, visit https://womenintheworkplace.com/