Facebook doubles bereavement leave for employees

Ms Sandberg  (above) pointed to her own experience to underscore the need for generous leave policies at Facebook (left).
Ms Sandberg pointed to her own experience to underscore the need for generous leave policies at Facebook (above).PHOTO: BLOOMBERG
Ms Sandberg  (above) pointed to her own experience to underscore the need for generous leave policies at Facebook (left).
Ms Sandberg (above) pointed to her own experience to underscore the need for generous leave policies at Facebook.

SAN FRANCISCO • Companies like Facebook have spent the past few years beefing up their parental-leave policies to attract and retain the most sought-after workers. Now they are looking at new ways to help them balance work and life.

In a recent Internet post, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said the company is doubling its bereavement leave for employees and also introducing paid family sick time.

"Facebook employees will have up to 20 days' paid leave to grieve an immediate family member, up to 10 days to grieve an extended family member," Ms Sandberg said. Previously, employees had 10 days' paid leave for immediate family and five for extended family.

Facebook also announced paid family sick time - three days to take care of a member with a short-term illness, like a child with the flu.

Facebook has now upgraded staff benefits dealing with family illness and death - rare but increasingly sought-after offerings, especially as millennials, the largest share of the workforce, begin caring for their ageing boomer parents.

In the past year, Deloitte and the Vanguard Group both started giving workers paid time off to care for sick relatives.

"This expands the concept of what it is whole people need, what kinds of private issues they bring with them to work, and how to make space for that," said Ms Ellen Bravo, the co-executive director of Family Values @ Work, an organisation that pushes for family-friendly workplace policies.

Ms Sandberg pointed to her own experience to underscore the need for generous leave policies. After her husband died suddenly in 2015, the company, she wrote in the post, gave her the flexibility she needed to grieve and to care for her children.

Few companies in the United States offer paid time off for anyone other than new parents, and many workers do not even have that.  Only 13 per cent of private-sector workers have access to paid family leave, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics.

The Family Medical Leave Act in the US guarantees eligible workers 12 weeks off "to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child or parent) with a serious health condition" - but it is unpaid. Just 2 per cent of companies subsidise family medical leave, according to a report last year by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

As for grieving, no federal law guarantees  workers any time off after a close family member's death.

Family medical and bereavement leave is the next frontier, and Facebook's foray into it could prompt other companies to follow.

"Facebook is upping the ante in the race for skilled talent in the high-tech sector by expanding their paid bereavement and caregiving leave," said Ms Lisa Horn, the head of SHRM's  Workplace Flexibility Initiative.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2017, with the headline 'Facebook doubles bereavement leave for employees'. Print Edition | Subscribe