On July 29, 2016, Governor Bruce Ratnor signed the Child Bereavement Act into law. The Act requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 10 working days of unpaid leave to employees to:
- attend the funeral or alternative to a funeral of a child;
- make arrangements necessitated by the death of the child; or
- grieve the death of the child.
Bereavement leave must be completed within 60 days after the date on which the employee receives notice of the death of the child. Further, employees requiring leave must provide employers with at least 48 hours’ advance notice of the employee’s intention to take bereavement leave, unless providing such notice is not reasonable and practicable.
The law defines employer as it is defined under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides that employers are covered employers if they have 50 employees located anywhere in the U.S. However, the law also defines eligible employees as is defined in the FMLA. Thus, in order to be eligible for leave employees must have worked at least 12 months for the employer, worked at least 1250 hours in the last 12 months, and work in a location with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.
The law does not define “child” as the FMLA does so employees will be able to take this leave regardless of the age of their children.
Employers may require reasonable documentation to demonstrate the need for leave. Such documentation can include a death certificate, a published obituary, or written verification of death, burial, or memorial services from a mortuary, funeral home, burial society, crematorium, religious institution, or government agency.
If an employee tragically suffers the death of more than one child in a 12-month period, an employee is entitled to up to a total of 6 weeks of bereavement leave during the 12-month period. Although the Act provides for unpaid leave, if an employee has paid leave (including family, medical, sick, annual, personal, or similar leave) from employment, the employee may elect to use paid leave for bereavement leave.
Finally, the law provides that it is not meant to increase the total amount of unpaid leave the employee can take under the FMLA. This seems to mean that if an employee has exhausted his or her 12 week FMLA entitlement, that he or she will not be permitted to take bereavement leave.
The law was effective immediately so, if employers have not already updated their leave policies, we encourage you to do so.