Bereavement Leave

Do you have an employee who’s asked to take bereavement leave? Providing time off to your staff is part of being a responsible employer. It allows you to protect your people, and to help them maintain a healthy work-life balance while motivating job performance. This includes bereavement leave, otherwise known as a leave of absence to mourn for the loss of a family member.

What is bereavement leave?

The term, bereavement refers to the mourning period that is caused by loss, especially following the death of a loved one. When making reference to employment, it means job-protected leave to deal with the death of a family member.

Does the Employment Standards Act (ESA) cover bereavement leave?

The ESA for Ontario employers does not cover leave specifically for bereavement. However, time off for a death is provided as Personal Emergency Leave (PEL). If you’re an employer under the Ontario ESA, you must provide your employees a minimum of 10 days off for personal emergencies, in which the first two days are time off with pay. Where bereavement is concerned, your employees can take a leave of absence if the death is related to a family member. These relatives include the employee’s:

  • Spouse;
  • Parent, grandparent, child, grandchild (all of which include both fostered or step-related);
  • Spouse of the employee’s child;
  • Siblings; and
  • Relative who is care-dependent on the employee.

Taking time off for bereavement would be counted as one of the ten days allotted for personal emergency leave, which is also considered as sick leave. While employers cannot ask employees to provide proof of entitlement (a medical note) for sick leave, it is seen as reasonable to request a copy of an obituary or death certificate.

Note that, where the death of a family member is considered part of PEL standards, this differs when it comes to the death of a child. In this case, the Ontario ESA covers child death leave as unpaid, job-protected leave for up to 104 weeks.


If you have questions about leaves of absences, ask Employer Line’s HR experts. We offer a free dedicated advice line to business owners, call – 1(833) 247-3650.