Bereavement leave gives an employee time to grieve and to take care of matters to do with the bereavement. This can be taken at any time and for any purpose relating to the bereavement, and does not have to be taken straight away or on consecutive days.
Employers often agree to giving employees additional bereavement leave above the minimum entitlement, depending on the circumstances, for example, if a funeral is being held a long distance away.
All employees (permanent, fixed-term, part-time and casual) can use bereavement leave if:
- they have worked for the employer continuously for six months or:
- they have worked for the employer for six months for
- an average of 10 hours per week, and
- at least one hour in every week or 40 hours in every month.
Each employee gets bereavement leave for a minimum of three days per bereavement in the following circumstances:
- The employee’s immediate family member dies (e.g. parents, child, partner or spouse, grandparents, grandchildren, brother, sister and parents-in-law)
- The employee has a miscarriage or stillbirth
- Another person has a miscarriage or stillbirth and the employee:
- is the person’s partner
- is the person’s former partner and would have been a biological parent of a child born as a result of the pregnancy
- had agreed to be the primary carer of a child born as a result of the pregnancy (e.g. through a formal adoption or a whangai arrangement)
- is the partner of a person who had agreed to be the primary carer of a child born as a result of the pregnancy.
Each employee gets bereavement leave for a minimum of one day per bereavement if another person dies and their employer accepts they’ve had a bereavement. This is based on:
- how close they were with the deceased person
- whether they have to take a lot of the responsibility for all or any of the arrangements for the ceremonies relating to the death
- if they have any cultural responsibilities in relation to the death.
Employees are entitled to bereavement leave every 12 months as long as they meet the above criteria. If they don’t meet the above criteria due to changes in work, they are not entitled to bereavement leave. However, the employee may re-qualify when they do meet the 6 month requirement.
Employees need to tell their employer as soon as possible when they have a bereavement they want to take leave for.
- Cara is entitled to three days’ paid bereavement leave when her brother Jake is killed in an accident. The funeral is in Sydney. Cara uses two days of paid bereavement leave to attend the funeral. Cara takes another day of bereavement leave six months later to go to a local memorial service.
- Tane is entitled to three days’ paid bereavement leave when his grandmother dies. He takes two days straight away to attend her tangi. A year later, he takes a day’s paid leave to attend the unveiling of his grandmother’s headstone.
- Ngaire takes two days’ paid bereavement leave when her sister dies after a long illness. Over the next few weeks, she takes two more half days of paid leave to talk to the lawyer about settling the details of her sister’s will.
If an employee can't take the bereavement leave they want
If an employee:
- hasn’t met the six month criteria so doesn’t qualify for bereavement leave, or
- wants to take extra bereavement leave (eg wants to take 5 days for the death of their grandparent)
then their employer can agree that the employee can take:
- bereavement leave in advance, or
- the leave as annual holidays. An employer can’t make an employee take bereavement leave as annual leave.
Proof of bereavement
The law is silent on the topic of proof of bereavement. This means that requesting proof cannot be a condition for the employee taking bereavement. The employer is not prohibited from requesting proof, either. So the concept of good faith would apply, which requires both the employer and the employee to be responsive and communicative, and not to mislead or deceive each other.
Payment for bereavement leave
Payment for bereavement leave is only made if the employee would have otherwise worked on the day. Payment should be the employee’s relevant daily pay or, if this isn’t possible or practical, then the average daily pay should be used. Payment for bereavement leave is made in the normal pay cycle.
Bereavement and public holidays
If the employee would have worked on a public holiday but have a bereavement, the day would be treated as a paid, unworked public holiday. Therefore:
- the employee would be paid their relevant daily pay or average daily pay (where applicable) but would not be entitled to time and a half or an alternative holiday, and
- no bereavement leave would be deducted.
Bereavement and annual holidays
If the employee is:
- about to take annual holidays but have a bereavement before they go, the employer must let the employee take bereavement leave for the relevant period.
- already taking annual holidays and have a bereavement, the employer must let you take bereavement leave instead of annual leave for the relevant period.
The Relevant and Average daily pay calculator can help calculate sick leave and bereavement leave entitlements.
Tools and Resources
Employee Learning Module
Sick leave, bereavement leave, alternative holidays, and public holidays – employee rights and responsibilities.
Leave and holidays guide - PDF 1.8MB
A guide to employees’ minimum leave and holiday entitlements.
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