What is Compassionate Leave?

Compassionate leave is time off from work for employees to deal with a family emergency. Compassionate leave generally encompasses:

  • Caring for an ill dependent such as a parent, child, or spouse
  • Making arrangements for the funeral of a dependent 

It’s incumbent upon each organization to determine its compassionate leave policy. Essential components to include: 

  • Length of leave
  • Paid or unpaid time off
  • Options to receive additional time off or take leave for a non-dependent family member 
  • Classification of bereavement or compassionate leave
  • When to report the emergency and to whom
  • Administration of employee return to work

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Why should HR leaders care about compassionate leave?

Death and illness are inevitable life occurrences, so compassionate leave is essential. Granting compassionate leave enables HR leaders and managers to maintain fairness, equity, and transparency. Moreover, during a traumatic or stressful period, people need others’ sympathy and consideration to heal. Compassionate leave safeguards a healthy and balanced employee-employer relationship, ultimately supporting retention, engagement, and productivity.  

What can HR leaders do to implement compassionate leave?

HR leaders can utilize the following tips to incorporate compassionate leave:

  • Demonstrate sympathy. Leaders should respond appropriately and immediately to an employee coping with the death or illness in the family. HR can offer condolences on behalf of the company and support the employee in prioritizing family needs above work. If the employee requests more time off to recuperate or take care of pressing matters, HR can comply according to the compassionate leave policy. If there is a death, HR and managers can acknowledge and respect any religious bereavement practices that the employee chooses to follow. 
  • Adhere to the company policy. A compassionate leave protocol allows both the employee and employer to uphold their responsibilities to each other. Including the procedure in the employment contract, employee handbook, or online company resources enables easy access. If an organization does not have a policy, it should set fair parameters that consider employee wellbeing while maintaining consistency with past compassionate leave actions. 
  • Communicate with care.  HR professionals can show sympathy by inquiring into employees’ welfare, their preferred method of contact, and if they want colleagues to know about the family death or illness.
  • Consider providing continuous support. Training HR professionals and managers to recognize depression, anxiety, or mental health issues enables them to direct personnel towards the help that they need. Reaching out to the appropriate organization such as an EAP can provide vital mental health resources and support. 

How can compassionate leave improve company culture?

In a compassionate workplace, employees know that their managers, coworkers, and the company care about their wellbeing. Showing sympathy during a sensitive and traumatic time lets employees know that they matter, helping to boost their engagement, loyalty, and dedication. Compassionate leave ultimately contributes to developing respect and empathy in the workplace and nurturing a warm and supportive work community and culture.