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Paid leave rules for death in the family

Discouraged man

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Dear Working Wise:

I saw your recent article and thought that you would be able to answer my question regarding the rules for paid leave in Alberta. My father passed away this weekend and I would like to know what Alberta’s labour laws say about bereavement leave. My wife works on contract. She is paid for stat holidays, but does not have other benefits. I thought it was a law that companies have to give employees time off for a death in the family. My company gives 5 days for an immediate family member. Is my wife entitled to time off, or is it at the discretion of her company?

Signed Somber Son

Dear Somber:

Please accept my sincere condolences on the passing of your father.

Alberta’s Employment Standards do not require employers to provide paid or unpaid bereavement leave.

However, I can understand why you might assume that employers are required to offer bereavement leave since so many employers voluntarily choose to do so.

Alberta companies choose to offer bereavement leave because grieving employees are more likely to be distracted and unable to concentrate at work.

They may show up, because they are expected to, but they will be less effective and may be at greater risk of injury at work.

This loss of productivity and workplace safety is sometimes referred to as presenteeism.

According to Harvard Business Review article, Presenteeism: At Work—But Out of It, presenteeism can cut productivity by a third or more and may actually cost an employer more than absenteeism.

Like other preventive health and safety programs, an effective bereavement policy is proactive. Offering support to grieving employees is not only compassionate—it can also save time and resources.

Employers can support bereaved employees by acknowledging their grief and establishing an effective bereavement policy.

A tip sheet for managers and supervisors who are interested in establishing a bereavement policy, and supporting their grieving staff, is available on the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at The tip sheet is called Employers: Helping Your Employees Cope With Loss.

Grieving In The Workplace: Coping With Loss is an ALIS tip sheet for employees and co-workers. It covers how grief can affect you, how to work through grief, how co-workers can support you, and what not to say to a grieving co-worker.

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a manager with Alberta Human Services. This column is provided for general information.


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