Grief leave is catching on with more companies

There’s almost no harder task than to keep working after losing a close family member. Companies are increasingly recognizing that. This week, Mastercard followed in Facebook’s footsteps by extending its bereavement policy of 15 days to 20 days for employees who lose a child, spouse, or domestic partner.

“This is another continuation of how we want to value employees at every stage of their life,” Mastercard’s Chief Human Resources Officer Michael Fraccaro told Ladders.

For the adoption or birth of a child, Mastercard will send its employees a bib and a gift. But the company wants to help its employees not only in times of celebration, but also in their hardest moments of loss.

Although Fraccaro recognizes that “there is no amount of time that is going to compensate for the loss of a loved ones, whether it’s 15 days or 25 days,” he believes the paid time off makes a significant difference in employees’ lives.

“A very important life event, which we know is going to happen at some point, is this period of a bereavement when you’ve lost someone close to you,” Fraccaro said. “We want to ensure that you take whatever time you need…to work through the emotional aspects but also the practical aspects.” 

Beyond the initial time off from work, Mastercard said it would support employees who lose an immediate family member like a spouse or partner with resources, including face-to-face counseling, and 18 months of medical insurance coverage.

The company said it was directly inspired by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who announced that she was extending Facebook’s 10 days of paid bereavement leave to 20 days earlier this year.

[pullquote] When your heart is broken, your head doesn’t work right. [/pullquote]

In her February announcement on the policy change, Sandberg said that she became intimately familiar with why extensive bereavement policies were needed after her husband Dave Goldberg died unexpectedly in 2015.

“Amid the nightmare of Dave’s death when my kids needed me more than ever, I was grateful every day to work for a company that provides bereavement leave and flexibility. I needed both to start my recovery,” Sandberg wrote in her announcement. “I know how rare that is, and I believe strongly that it shouldn’t be. People should be able both to work and be there for their families. No one should face this trade-off.”

In addition to the 20 days of leave to grieve an immediate family member, Facebook employees also get 10 paid days to grieve an extended family member, and up to six weeks to care for a sick relative.

Benefits of bereavement policies

The U.S. does not mandate paid bereavement leave but these policies benefit both employer and employee. Employers want engaged employees, and that’s not possible while they’re experiencing the immediate grief of personal tragedy.

The Grief Index surveyed 35,000 grieving employees and found that U.S. businesses lose more than $37.6 billion annually due to mistakes, absenteeism and low productivity that result from grief.

Only 69% of employees in the private sector get paid time off after the death of a family member, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Giving employees more than the standard two to three days would help them immensely with planning funerals and processing their pain, and it dismantles the theory that employees have to compartmentalize their lives and feelings.

Russell Friedman, executive director of the Grief Recover Institute, told NBC News about why longer policies are need. “You can’t park your grief at the office door and then pick it up at five…when your heart is broken, your head doesn’t work right.”