Effective January 1, 2023, California employers with five or more employees will be required to provide up to five days of bereavement leave to employees who have worked at least 30 days prior to the start of the leave. The leave is available upon the death of a family member, which includes spouses, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, domestic partners, or parents-in-law and must be completed within three months of the death. Note that the leave does not need to be taken consecutively and it appears to be available on a per-death rather than an annual basis.
Substitution of Paid Leave Is Permitted
The leave is generally unpaid, but employees are permitted to use paid vacation, personal leave, accrued sick leave, or compensatory leave available to them to offset lost wages.
Documentation of the Need for Leave
Employees can be required to provide documentation of the death of a family member within 30 days of the first day of leave. Said documentation includes, but is not limited to, a death certificate, a published obituary, or written verification of death, burial, or memorial services from a mortuary, funeral home, burial society, crematorium, religious institution, or government agency. The confidentiality of such documentation, as well as an employee’s request for bereavement leave, must be maintained by the employer.
Handbook/Policies Updates Are Recommended
Employers without an existing bereavement leave policy should add one to their employee handbooks. Employers with existing bereavement leave policies must be sure that their policies provide at least the minimum benefits guaranteed under the new law. Because employees can use paid sick leave for bereavement leave purposes, employers should also update their paid sick leave policies accordingly.
Please contact your Cook Brown attorney with any questions or for assistance in updating your handbook/policy documents.