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How To Ask For Time Off For A Funeral (10 Templates)

By Larry Li

July 6, 2022


When a cherished family member or friend passes away, you’ll need to take time off to attend the funeral and process the loss.

But how can you ask for time off for a funeral?

Asking for time off for a funeral is called bereavement leave. Bereavement leave is employer-sanctioned time off after the death of a loved one. Although different organizations have different bereavement policies, you can write a bereavement leave letter explaining the situation and how much time you’ll need off.

Unfortunately, there are no federal laws in the United States that require employers to pay for bereavement leave time unless stated otherwise in the employee contract. Nevertheless, many companies choose to provide paid leave to employees during these difficult circumstances.

In today’s in-depth guide, you’ll learn:

  • Things to know before asking for bereavement leave

  • Laws and protections for bereavement leave

  • Step-by-step guide on asking for time off for a funeral

  • Templates for bereavement leave requests

Things To Know Before Asking For Bereavement Leave

Bereavement is a period of mourning you go through after the death of a loved one. Bereavement leave is a common excuse when seeking an absence from work. Although bereavement is a reasonable reason to ask for time off, it doesn’t make it an easy request. 

As humans, we’re entitled to our emotional well-being. Bereavement time is necessary to heal wounds caused by the passing of loved ones. 

Let’s discuss some things to note before asking for bereavement leave.

1. Your Employer’s Stance on Bereavement Leave

Various types of absences are common and quickly approved by most employers. These absences include injuries and illnesses where coming to work is dangerous and nearly impossible.

However, workplaces don’t tolerate all types of absences. Some businesses don’t accept bereavement leave, while others do. For this reason, if you want to ask for bereavement leave, you must find out your company’s policy.

Knowing if your organization even allows time off for bereavement before you ask is helpful. This way, you won’t waste your or your manager’s time. In addition, if your organization has strict rules on bereavement leave, you can modify your bereavement leave request to increase its chance of approval.

2. Who to Speak To

The next step is to determine who to speak to. Usually, this is a manager or somebody responsible for scheduling in the human resources department. 

So, find out who to bring the request to and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this person understanding?

  • How can I increase my chance of approval?

Knowing who to speak to will help you frame your request in a better light.

3. Provide Evidence

Similar to sick day requests, your employer may ask to see evidence of the passing of your loved one before granting you time off. 

Although this seems intrusive and insensitive, organizations may require evidence to prevent employees from taking advantage of insincere bereavement requests. 

Some employers may even have specific requirements asking how close the deceased person was to you and your relationship with them.

You should identify all reasons why your employer would deny your request and prepare responses for them in advance.

4. What is Your Current Work Situation

Some organizations are busier during certain times of the year. For example, accountants are extremely busy from January to April during tax season. 

Therefore, you must read your current workplace situation before making your request. For example, if it’s a hectic time for your company, your employer may deny your bereavement leave request.

As such, choosing a better moment to ask for time off can improve your chances of getting your request approved.

5. Consider Your Priorities

Before you ask for bereavement leave, you must consider your priorities. You need to ask yourself if it’s better to stay at work or to take bereavement leave.

Although attending the funeral of a loved one is of the utmost importance, it may be costly. For example, funerals may require you to do extensive traveling on very short notice. Even more, a funeral could be held on another continent, putting a hole in your pocket for last-minute plane tickets and hotel bookings.

Alternatively, skipping work during a critical time could make you lose out on a major deal or promotion. Therefore, you must take some time to consider your current situation and priorities before making your bereavement leave request public. 

Laws & Protections For Bereavement Leave: What To Know

Surprisingly enough, no federal laws in the United States protect employees who need time off for bereavement leave. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require payment for time not worked. This includes time off to attend a funeral.

Therefore, organizations dictate bereavement leave policies themselves. As a result, each organization has a unique stance on bereavement leave and can decide whether to approve requests or not.

However, 88% of businesses offer paid bereavement leave, according to a 2018 report on employee benefits from the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). But most employers require employees to be regular full-time employees with a minimum period of continuous employment to qualify for funeral leave. 

Although I mentioned there are no federal laws requiring bereavement leave, there is one exception. Oregon is the only state in the United States where employees are entitled to take bereavement leave. 

Under Oregon’s Family Leave Act, established in 2014, Oregon employers with 25 or more employees must allow qualifying employees to take bereavement leave after losing a family member. 

Asking For Time Off For A Funeral (Step by Step)

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is one of the most demanding challenges we face. Adding on work obligations and responsibilities makes it even harder. If you’re ready to ask for bereavement leave, here are a few tips to make the process as easy as possible.

1. Notify Your Employer as Soon as Possible

Understandably, work is probably the last thing on your mind after losing somebody you love. However, it’s crucial to let your employer know you’ll need to take bereavement leave in the near future.

This way, your employer can plan in advance for your absence and offer you plenty of time to grieve and process your emotions. When you first speak to your employer about the bereavement leave, you won’t know the exact length and dates of when you need to step away from work. 

And that is totally okay.

Death happens unexpectedly, and the time needed to take care of post-death obligations is vague and unpredictable. As long as you keep your employer updated as you confirm more details, such as dates and travel plans, you shouldn’t face any issues.

Since you should have already reviewed your organization’s bereavement leave policies, you’ll know who to contact first. This is either your supervisor or the human resources department.

2. Pick up the Phone

As you mourn the loss of your loved one, you presumably won’t feel like speaking with your boss or HR manager on the phone. So while requesting time off for a funeral via email or text may be tempting, it’s best to have a real conversation.

I recommend sending your manager or HR personnel a quick message asking if they have a few minutes to speak on the phone. Having a one-on-one phone call with the person in charge of your schedule helps clarify your situation and avoid potential miscommunication. 

However, there’s no need to get into too much detail. Instead, you can keep things short and straightforward while also letting your employer know your situation. 

For example, here’s a script you can follow:

“Hi, [Name]. I just want to tell you that my [loved one] has passed away, and I will need to request bereavement leave. Can you tell me what I need to do to get the leave approved?”

Your HR contact or supervisor should let you know what steps to follow in order to submit your bereavement leave request and get it approved. 

3. Determine How Much Time off You Need and Create a Timeline

After the phone call, you’ll need to confirm the exact details of your bereavement leave. This way, you can submit a valid bereavement leave request.

So, you must determine how much time off you need to process the death of your loved one and to attend the funeral. If your employer offers a generous paid leave policy, you should consider taking an extended break to recover emotionally. 

Nevertheless, you need to create a detailed timeline of your absence so your employer can fill in the gap and plan for your return.

4. Write a Written Request

Although you alerted your HR department or supervisor of your intended bereavement leave through the phone call, you need to write a written request. This way, your request doesn’t fall through the cracks.

The written request gives you and your employer something to refer to during and after your bereavement leave. Although a formal letter is ideal, an email is appropriate for most workplaces. Your HR supervisor or boss should have already told you who to send the email to.

I have included some templates for bereavement leave requests in the next section. Feel free to scroll down and view these examples.

However, there are some general guidelines to follow when writing your bereavement leave request. First, you should write your email in a formal, polite tone. 

A few key details to include in the letter are:

  • The name of the loved one, the date of their passing, and your relationship with them

  • How much bereavement leave you wish to take

  • When you plan on returning to work

  • Whether you want to take additional time off as paid vacation time

  • Arrangements you have with coworkers to take over duties in your absence

  • If you will be available via email or phone to discuss work matters during your leave

  • A sincere appreciation to your employer for understanding the situation at hand

5. Review the Request and Send It Off

Once you finish writing your first draft, I recommend asking a trusted individual to review it. Since your emotions may be all over the place, the first draft may contain errors you wouldn’t notice otherwise.

It’s important to include all the relevant information your employee will want to know in a logical and cohesive manner. Furthermore, you want to ensure your tone is professional enough for this kind of request. 

After the trusted individual reviews the request and makes the appropriate revisions, you can send it off. If you have trouble writing your bereavement leave request, take a look at the templates below.

Templates For Bereavement Leave Requests

Writing a coherent bereavement leave request is a difficult task as you’re cherishing the memory of your loved one. For this reason, I have included ten examples to make these hard times easier for you.

Feel free to modify any of these templates to your liking, or take them word for word, it’s up to you. I want to make your life as easy as possible when dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Here are ten examples of bereavement leave requests:

Example 1: In-Depth Formal Request

Dear [Manager],

I am writing to formally request bereavement leave. My grandfather, John Smith, passed away last night in [location]. I am requesting bereavement leave to return to [location] and make funeral arrangements beginning October 1 through October 9. I won’t need additional time off as paid vacation time. 

Despite the unfortunate circumstances, I remain committed to this organization and my position. I will do my best to complete the projects I’m working on before my bereavement leave. Mike Jones has agreed to handle my usual obligations during my absence. If you need to reach me while I’m away, please send an email to [your personal email] or text my cell phone at [your cell phone number].

I truly appreciate your understanding during these difficult times.

Kind regards,

[Your name]

Example 2: Middle of a Project

Dear [Manager],

I do understand this is an inconvenient time for me to take off work since we’re in the middle of a project, but [describe the situation], so I need to request [amount of time off] for bereavement leave. 

Please let me know if this is acceptable. If you approve my request, I will be available through phone and email for [amount of time off] to help our team adjust to my absence in any way I can.

Thank you,

[Your name]

Example 3: Short and Formal in a Large Organization

Dear [Manager]

I’m emailing you to let you know [name of the person who passed away, your relationship with them, and any other relevant details]. I’m requesting [amount of time off] for bereavement leave.

According to our company’s policies, this should be acceptable, but please tell me if there are any issues or if I need to take any additional steps before you finalize the approval.

Kind regards,

[Your name]

Example 4: Short Funeral Leave Request to HR

Dear [HR Supervisor],

I am writing to formally request a short leave of absence to attend my mother’s funeral next week. 

I understand our company allows employees to take some time off in case of such emergencies, and I’d like to make use of that privilege now. Thank you in advance, and please let me know if I need to provide any additional details.

Best,

[Your name]

Example 5: Immediate Absence Bereavement Request

Dear [Manager],

I regret to inform you that my mother passed away today, tragically and without notice. Because of these circumstances, I respectfully request that you grant me 5 days of paid leave and 2 days of unpaid leave beginning today.

I am heading home today, June 30, 2022, and will be out of town for the funeral and other arrangements until July 9, 2022. So I will be back in the office on July 11, 2022, positively. I would appreciate your concern in this matter, as I need time to take care of my family.

In case you need to reach me, please leave me a message on my number. You can also reach me at [cell phone number].

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name]

Example 6: Paid Leave Bereavement Leave Request

Dear [Manager],

I am writing to inform you that [name of loved one and relationship to you] has passed away.

I would like to formally request three days of paid leave to travel to [location], arrange funeral plans, and spend time with my family. Beyond that, I would like to use any unused paid vacation time I have accrued to navigate these troubling times with my family. I am deeply committed to my work at [company name], and I trust you understand.

I will be available via email during this time. For urgent matters, I have notified [colleague or supervisor] of my absence, and he is happy to help out in my absence.

Thank you in advance for understanding.

Best,

[Your name]

Example 7: Unsure of Company Policy

Dear [Manager],

My father passed away last night, so I need to know how much bereavement leave I can take for the funeral and to get his affairs in order. 

As you know, I am very committed to my job at [company] and would not ordinarily ask for time off without advance notice. However, I’m hoping you will be willing to work with me as I grieve the loss of my father. What options are available, and what do I need to submit?

Kind regards,

[Your name]

Example 8: Friend or Non-Immediate Relative

Dear [Manager],

My cousin, who was my closest friend since childhood, died last night unexpectedly. I know this loss doesn’t fall under our official bereavement policy guidelines, but I desperately need some time to come to terms with this. I am hoping you can understand this situation.

I’m devastated and need to be with family at this time. If you approve my bereavement request, I plan to take an absence from [dates you will be gone].

Thank you in advance for working with me.

Best,

[Your name]

Example 9: Short and Specific 

Dear [Manager],

I am writing to request a three-day leave to attend the funeral of my paternal uncle. The service will take place in San Fransisco on Monday, July 8th. I will fly over and stay for two nights and return on July 11th. 

Thank you,

[Your name]

Example 10: Long and Specific

Dear [Manager],

My father, John Smith, passed away on Wednesday night. The visitation and funeral services will take place Thursday and Friday in Chicago, Illinois, next week. According to the company’s bereavement policy, I have three days of paid leave I can use to attend my father’s funeral. In addition, I talked with Joe Dunn, my direct supervisor, and he has approved the use of additional vacation days. This will allow me to travel to my mother’s home in advance and spend time with my family during these challenging times.

Thanks to the bereavement leave and vacation days I have available, I can spend today finishing up a few last-minute tasks I need to complete before I go. My time away starts tomorrow, Friday, July 2nd. I will return to work Monday, July 13th. 

I understand how busy the office has been recently, so I want to ensure everything runs smoothly while I’m away. Roger and Diana have agreed to cover my workload over the next week, so my absence won’t affect our team or our clients.

If you have any questions for me, please reach me via cell phone at [cell phone number] or email at [email].

Sincerely,

[Your name]

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