Enforcing Bereavement Time

Steve Gifford Bad HR, Benefits, Current Affairs, Engagement and Satisfaction, Policies, Steve Gifford

My Kindergartener announced Monday evening that, in addition to gym class and centers, they had done “lockdown practice” at school that day.  It was simply another activity in his day.

I live in Connecticut.  I have two kids who go to elementary school here.  And my office is less than twenty minutes from Newtown.  No one I work with was personally impacted, but the tragedy is impossible to ignore.

It has me thinking about the employer reaction to personal tragedies, great and small.

My company has the same bereavement policy I’ve seen at most places I’ve worked.  You get three days paid for the loss of an immediate family member, and one day for more distant family members.  Employees use it on occasion to go to funerals, and it seems to work fine.

If your employee has a wife, or a child, who was at Sandy Hill, they’re going to need more than three days off.

My company is small enough that bypassing the bereavement policy is easy to do.  But we have some big employers here in Connecticut; there are at least three Fortune 500 companies within commuting distance of Newtown.  Somewhere, deep in the depths of a large company’s HR department, someone is pointing out that “the policy says three days, I’m sorry, we can’t change the policy.”

Please don’t be that person.  Over time, we’ve learned that wiggle room on policies opens us up to favoritism, complaints, and lawsuits.  But if you can’t bring “human” to your human resources when your employee is at the lowest point of their life, you need to be doing something else.  The policy doesn’t matter at times like this.  Tell your boss whatever they need to hear: it’ll be bad publicity for the company, or it’ll send the wrong message to other employees, or the employee won’t be productive when they get back anyway.  If that doesn’t work, suggest that the employee’s potential depression qualifies for FMLA.

Folks, there are policies and then there are policies.  HR people who support employees know the difference.