New York State Funeral Directors Association

It’s often said that the best thing you can do for someone who lost a loved one is to be there for them.

That’s especially true for the funeral.

Sometimes close family members are the only ones able to attend services because friends and others can’t go for fear of asking for time off.

There’s been much discussion about “paid” time off for pregnancy and caring for dying relatives and the like.

It’s a topic that drew much attention when Facebook announced a change in its time off policies.

The company – which already offered time for pregnancy and other things – announced plans to allow employees up to 20 days of paid leave for bereavement after the death of an immediate family member and 10 days for an extended family member.

It sounds benevolent – and it’s financially realistic for a company that brought in more than $3.6 billion dollars in the year 2016.Heartbroken

But this may not be realistic for other companies struggling to keep their doors open while coping with healthcare and other costs for employees.

WorkAfterFuneralI come from a time when there was no health care. A couple of part-time jobs were required to pay the rent – since few would offer full time that came with benefits. Time off was always unpaid. And calling in sick yielded sneers when you returned to work after mean and uncomfortable discussion with Mr. BossMan.

But the discussion on when workers should get time off is an important one because it’s about time employers started thinking about their workers’ lives - beyond the time they’re on the clock.

It’s easy to find the impact on lives when people can’t go to a funeral where their friend is mourning the loss of a family member.

Just search on Twitter and you’ll see people posting about it every day.

It’s not just the anger people express when they can’t make it to a funeral because of work.

Attending a funeral is tiring. It’s extremely difficult to think of what to say, to try to remember all the names of friends’ family that are there. It’s stressful and exhausting.

These are things you can see people express on social media. They don’t complain about going to the funeral if they get the chance.WorkOrFuneral

They complain about how tired they are, how long a day or weekend they’ll have. How hard the latter part of the day – at work – will be.

But they go to the funeral when they aren’t afraid they’ll get cut loose or be denigrated by their boss either when they ask for the time off or when they return.

Whether it’s a job that schedules people to work the day they said they had a funeral, or an employer questioning “how close” the relationship is, the bottom line is that the “almighty dollar” often trumps human sensibility.

Hard-nosed bosses that drag workers over the coals when they ask to go to a funeral may think they’re just pursuing due diligence to keep their business operating at peak efficiency.

WorkOrFuneral2But they’re really hurting themselves. And they’re not impressing anyone.

There are studies that show how attitudes of employees towards their employers impact the work they do – and impact what’s called “talent retention.”

In simple terms, that means employers shouldn’t expect a good worker to stick around when they don’t care about things that have a major impact on their employees’ lives and relationships.

Having an employer who demonstrates true concern for their workers keeps many people at their jobs – people who could otherwise find another one.

I don’t think I’ll ever support “forcing” employers to pay people for time off – though I do appreciate the idea of earning sick and vacation time you can use or hang onto.WorkSched

Some people simply cannot afford to take unpaid time off to go to a funeral, and that hurts them and their relationships. And some businesses simply cannot afford to pay workers when they aren’t working.

But the money-heavy Facebook company’s announcement made a big splash and got a lot of people talking and reading about paid leave at jobs.

Hopefully, that splash will lead to more management-types realizing the importance of time off so their employees can support their friends and family when they’re grieving a death. The same goes for fellow employees – those who might lend a hand and pick up a shift for their fellow employee.


EdsPhotoEd Munger
Communications & Social Media Specialist
NYS Funeral Directors Association