Reading time: 5 minutes

Losing a close family member or relative can be a challenging time for your employees. Therefore, it is essential that you understand their rights to manage this process with tact and protect your ongoing relationship with your employees. Under New Zealand law, employees, whether permanent, part-time or casual, are entitled to take paid time off work when they suffer the loss of an immediate family member or close relative. However, they need to have worked for you for a certain period before they can take paid leave. If they do not meet these criteria, they can agree with you to take bereavement leave in advance or annual leave in place of it. This article will help you understand your employer obligations in regards to managing and paying your employees’ bereavement leave.

What is Bereavement Leave?

Bereavement leave is a type of paid leave that your employees can use when someone in their family dies. If they meet certain eligibility criteria, they may be entitled to one to three days, or they can agree with you to use other forms of leave. 

Your Employer Obligations

After an employee has been working for you for six months, they’re entitled to three days’ bereavement leave every year on the death of their:

  • child;
  • grandchild;
  • grandparent;
  • parent;
  • partner;
  • partner’s parent; or
  • sibling.

For someone outside the immediate family, you can decide on a case-by-case basis at your discretion. It is common to offer one day leave in these cases. 

Who is Entitled to Bereavement Leave?

All your employees are entitled to bereavement leave, including casual workers if, after six months, they have worked: 

  • continuously for the six month period; or 
  • an average of at least 10 hours a week; and 
  • at least one hour in every week or 40 hours in every month.

You must allow your employees to take leave any time and for any purpose relating to death. For example, they do not have to use it straight away or on consecutive days.

Payment for Bereavement Leave 

You need to pay the employee’s relevant daily pay. If this is impractical, then you have to use the average daily pay. You only need to pay for bereavement leave if your employee would have otherwise worked on the days he is using it. You can make pay it in the normal pay cycle.

If your employee takes bereavement leave on a public holiday, on which he was rostered to work, you still need to pay him their relevant daily pay or average daily pay (where applicable). However, he would not be entitled to time and a half or an alternative holiday. In this case, you cannot deduct any bereavement leave.

In the case of annual leave, if your employee experiences a death in their family when he is about to take annual holidays or during the holiday, you must allow him to take bereavement leave for the relevant period. You can use the Employment New Zealand’s Relevant and Average daily pay calculator to help you calculate sick leave and bereavement leave entitlements.

How to Show Extra Support 

You can show extra support to your employees in such a difficult time by:

  • offering additional leave in your employment agreements;
  • reducing the period of time they need to work for you to be entitled; and (or) 
  • letting employees take a longer period of leave, by either using their annual leave entitlement or as unpaid leave.

Key Takeaways 

As an employer, you need to understand your employees’ rights when it comes to taking leave. If your employee is entitled to take bereavement leave, you will have to pay them for one to three days off to allow them to mourn their loss, or you can agree for them to use other forms of leave during their absence. It is up to them how they use their leave, for example, straight away or not. You need to pay for your employee’s relevant daily pay or average daily pay in their normal pay cycle, but only if he was rostered to work on the days he is taking leave. 

If you need help understanding your employer obligations or you need to discuss certain clauses in your employment agreements, LegalVision’s employment lawyers can help. Call 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is bereavement leave paid in NZ?

When calculating bereavement leave, you need to pay the employee’s relevant daily pay or the average daily pay in their normal pay cycle, as long as he would have otherwise worked on the days he is taking leave.

How long can employees take off work for bereavement?

Your employees are entitled to three days’ bereavement leave if they have worked for you for six consecutive months in every year on the death of their child, grandchild, grandparent, parent, partner, partner’s parent or sibling. For someone outside their immediate family, you can decide on a case-by-case basis at your discretion, but it is common to offer one day in these cases.

Are casual employees entitled to paid bereavement leave?

All your employees, including permanent, part-time and casual, are entitled to one to three days of leave when a member of their immediate family dies or suffers a life-threatening illness or injury. Workers are entitled to paid bereavement leave if they have worked for you for a certain amount of time. Alternatively, you can allow them to take leave in advance or unpaid leave.

Does bereavement have to be consecutive days?

In New Zealand, your employee does not have to take bereavement leave on consecutive days.

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.

The majority of our clients are LVConnect members. By becoming a member, you can stay ahead of legal issues while staying on top of costs. From just $119 per week, get all your contracts sorted, trade marks registered and questions answered by experienced business lawyers.

Learn more about LVConnect

Need Legal Help? Get a Free Fixed-Fee Quote

If you would like to receive a free fixed-fee quote or get in touch with our team, fill out the form below.

Our Awards

  • 2019 Top 25 Startups - LinkedIn
  • 2020 Excellence in Technology & Innovation Finalist – Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Employer of Choice Winner – Australasian Lawyer
  • 2021 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2021 Law Firm of the Year - Australasian Law Awards
  • 2020 Law Firm of the Year Finalist - Australasian Law Awards