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Are you an employer in New Zealand? If you are, you must be aware of all the rights you owe to your employees. New Zealand employment law governs most of these rights to ensure that employers do not take advantage of their staff. For example, employees are entitled to varying amounts of leave. However, there may be a situation where an employee has run out of leave but still wants to take leave. This article will explain your employees’ entitlements to bereavement leave. It will likewise detail what you can do, as an employer, if your employee has run out of bereavement leave.

Bereavement Leave

Bereavement leave is a type of leave that an employee can take in relation to a bereavement. For example, a bereavement could be the death of an immediate family member or if an employee or their partner has suffered a miscarriage.

Duration of Bereavement Leave

Your employees are entitled to three days of bereavement leave for the death of someone in their immediate family. As an employer, you must pay your employees in full for these three days. Each employee is permitted to have three days off per bereavement that occurs. 

Additionally, your employees can take one day of bereavement leave if someone close to them passes, such as a friend. You should consider factors such as the nature of the relationship between your employment and the deceased. You can also account for whether your employee has any responsibilities in relation to funeral ceremonies.

Importantly, when approaching these questions with your employee, take due care and sensitivity. 

Employee Entitlements to Bereavement Leave

Additionally, you should consider how long an employee has been with your business. An employee may take bereavement leave if they have worked for your business for at least six months. Likewise, they must have worked at least 40 hours a month during those six months. 

Although the law stipulates the eligibility for bereavement leave, most employers will allow employees to take bereavement leave even if they have not met these requirements. Therefore, you may decide to give additional bereavement leave in situations where you feel it is appropriate for your employee’s circumstances. For example, an employee might need to travel to a funeral overseas. 

Not Enough Bereavement Leave

A common situation is where you have an employee seeking bereavement leave, but they have been with your business for less than six months. Technically, they are ineligible under New Zealand employment law. However, you can still negotiate a deal with your employee to allow them bereavement leave for a certain number of days. In this case, it might mean that you give your employee some paid days of leave but other days underpaid. 

If a bereavement has occurred, it is vital that your employee informs you as soon as possible. Of course, you must comply with your good faith obligations and respect your employee’s privacy. However, your employee should still aim to speak to you so that you can arrange bereavement leave for them. 

Alternatively, you could negotiate and have your employee take annual leave during this time. Annual leave accrues while your employee works, so they may have a few days of annual leave even if they have not worked for a business for at least six months. Importantly, your employee must consent to this.

Your business may also have a separate bereavement leave policy that allows an employee to take more than three days off when a bereavement has occurred. Your business could introduce this policy to create a culture where employees feel respected and looked after. 

Key Takeaways

New Zealand employment law entitles your employees to bereavement leave. This is where an employee suffers a bereavement, such as the loss of a close family member. When this happens, an employee can take three paid days off work. However, there are eligibility requirements, like working for a business for at least six months. If a bereavement occurs during this time, it is important that you negotiate a resolution with your employee. For example, you can allow your employee to take paid leave with a mixture of unpaid leave.

For any legal assistance with managing your employees’ entitlements to bereavement leave, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does my employee need to inform me before taking bereavement leave?

Yes. Your employee must always inform your business if they are taking any sort of leave.

Do I need to give my employee additional annual leave for bereavement?

No. Once your employee takes annual leave, they are unable to get it back for any reason. However, they can accrue more annual leave with your business as they work.

What if a bereavement occurs whilst an employee is on annual leave?

A situation may arise where your employee suffers a bereavement while on annual leave. If this occurs, you must let your employee take bereavement leave during this time. This means they will be on bereavement leave for three days without using any of their annual leave. Once the bereavement leave ends, your employee can continue to take their annual leave.

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