Unpaid Bereavement Leave (AB 1949)

California’s new bereavement leave law changes (AB 1949) went into effect on January 1, 2023. In short, this bill requires employers to allow employees who have completed 30 days of employment to take up to 5 days of unpaid bereavement leave upon the death of a family member. Such leave can be authorized by an existing bereavement leave policy of the employer, but the policy must at the minimum allow 5 days (which can be a combination of paid and unpaid days) separate from any other leave allotment.

It is important to update your employee handbooks for the upcoming year to ensure compliance with these new requirements.

Minimum Bereavement Leave Requirements:

  • California is now requiring that employers offer five days of unpaid bereavement leave in the event of a death of a family member.
  • To be eligible, an employee must be employed for at least 30 days prior to the start of the leave.
  • The bereavement leave is to be completed within three months of the date of death.
  • An employee does not have to take the five days of bereavement leave consecutively. Instead, an employee may use the leave intermittently. For example, an employee could take three days immediately upon a family member’s passing, followed by two days for a memorial service weeks later.
  • “Family member” definition is consistent with the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) – “any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” The employee can only designate one person per year.
  • Employees may also use any available paid leave such as accrued PTO, vacation, or sick leave.

Integration with Bereavement Leave Policies:

Employers with more than five employees should review their current policies and practices involving bereavement leave to be in compliance with AB 1949. Employers should determine how they wish to provide this bereavement leave  – while keeping in mind that an employee is entitled to five days of bereavement leave, whether paid or unpaid.

  • Incorporate into your existing policy if you already have a bereavement policy in place. If you already have a policy allowing for fewer than five days of bereavement leave, you must increase the available amount to meet the required five days.
  • An employer may require an employee to supply documentation such as a memorial service card, death certificate, published obituary, etc.
  • It would be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to grant a request by any employee to take up to five days of bereavement leave upon the death of a family member.

If you have any questions regarding this new employment law and how to implement it within your house of worship or nonprofit, Church & Casualty customers can contact Carla Otte at AskHR@ccia.com. Carla is part of CCIA’s Advisory Team, our dedicated team of professionals that assist our customers with free services such as HR, Legal, Financial, and Security.