Three Days Off Work to Grieve is Not Long Enough

A non-profit grief-counselling group from British Columbia has the right idea – and anyone who has lost a loved one would probably agree.

Last week, the Camp Kerry Society said that the length of bereavement leave given to Canadian employees needs to be increased beyond three days. That’s right: The Canada Labour Code currently only guarantees federal workers up to three days of leave right after the day of an immediate family member’s death. More generous policies may give employees a mere five days off. Last Tuesday marked Canada’s first annual National Bereavement Day, and the Camp Kerry Society took the opportunity to address the affect of grief on Canada’s workforce. According to the agency’s projections, around 269,000 Canadians will die before the end of the year, and five people will be significantly impacted by grief related to each death.

Instead of three days, the Camp Kerry Society is thinking more like three months.

According to a CBC article, Heather Mohan of the Camp Kerry Society said that people experiencing grief following the death of a loved one typically feel numbness and shock for the first few days. You barely know up from down and you’re really just going through the motions. Not to mention, those initial few days are filled with distractions offered by friends and family and are spent preparing for a funeral or memorial. In my experience, the real, raw grief doesn’t set in until life returns to normal for your food-bearing support group. Mohan said that it typically takes three to six months before they seek grief counselling and begin to heal.

Last year, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg – who lost her husband in 2015 – changed Facebook’s bereavement policy to allow employees to take up to 20 days of paid leave following the death of an immediate family member and up to 10 days off following the death of an extended family member. This doubled the number of days in the previous policy. The policy went into effect at the beginning of 2017. It didn’t take long for MasterCard and Survey Monkey to follow suit. The United Kingdom is exploring the idea of extending bereavement leave as well.

Some of the world’s leading tech companies have taken progressive steps as of late when it comes to paid leave, however, this has typically focused on maternity and paternity leave. More companies need to jump on board when it comes to grief considerations. Everyone needs time to process and deal with grief. As much as there is merit in “staying busy” by throwing yourself back into the nine to five grind, if not managed properly, grief can lead to everything from substance abuse to depression. Addicted and depressed workers are usually not the most productive ones. In fact, not properly grieving could result in more time taken off work on the long run. An estimated 500,000 employees can in sick every day in Canada due to mental illness, after all.

Allowing employees sufficient time to grieve isn’t only the compassionate thing to do, it will help businesses and workplace environments in the long-run.