Anyone who has ever had to take time for bereavement will tell you that the traditional allotted amount of time for this is not enough. There are tons of other factors that need to be taken into account with the loss of any loved one. The State of Illinois has taken one step in the right direction with their new State Leave, the Child Bereavement Leave Act, which went into effect on July 29, 2016. This Act will apply to all employers with 50 or more employees, and allows those employees to take up to two weeks or ten workdays of unpaid bereavement to:
- Attend the funeral or alternative to a funeral of a child.
- Make arrangements necessitated by the death of a child.
- Grieve the death of the child.
This Act defines “child” broadly to include an employee’s biological son or daughter, an adopted or foster child, a stepchild, legal ward, or child of a person standing in loco parentis. There is no age restriction for the “children” in this Act, but the leave must take place within the first 60 days after the employee receives notice of the death of his or her child. The Child Bereavement Leave Act points to FMLA regulations for the definition of an employee and employer.
Since bereavement is not covered under FMLA, Child Bereavement Leave is not to run concurrent with FMLA. That being said, the Child Bereavement Leave Act does indicate that if an employee has used 12 weeks of any other leave within that leave year, FMLA included, the employee will not be allowed to take bereavement leave under this act.
The employee does have some obligations in taking this leave. They must provide the employer with at least 48 hours advance notice of their intention to take bereavement leave, unless such notice is not reasonable or practicable. Employers also may require reasonable documentation from the employee.
Though it is common with FMLA, employers cannot require an employee to substitute paid leave for this unpaid leave. The employee may choose to take paid leave along with the child bereavement; however, the employer cannot make it a requirement.
In the event of the death of more than one child in a 12 month period, an employee is entitled to a total of six weeks of bereavement leave during the 12 month period. Although that 12 month period is not defined within the Act, it will more than likely coincide with the employer’s FMLA plan year.
As far as enforcement goes, an employer violating any provision of the Child Bereavement Leave Act or any rule adopted under the Act is subject to a civil penalty for each employee affected.
- First offense – $500.00
- Second or subsequent offense – $1,000.00
The Child Bereavement Leave Act also indicates that legal action could be brought if necessary to recover the amount of unpaid wages, damages, and penalties. In each case, the employer could be required to pay the costs.
Employers in Illinois should update any leave policies or employee handbooks to include notice of employees’ rights to take leave under the Child Bereavement Leave Act as well as define the parameters for use of such leave.