OPM has issued guidance finalizing a new form of paid leave for federal employees, parental bereavement leave, in the most significant expansion of leave since the authority for paid parental leave took effect in October 2020.
Two workweeks of this new form of leave can be used in connection with the death of an employee’s qualifying child. “Bereavement leave is a new, stand-alone type of paid leave entitlement that is administered independently from any other type of leave, including sick leave, to make arrangements necessitated by the death of a family member or to attend the funeral of a family member,” says the guidance.
The guidance, which sets the terms for agencies to follow in setting up their own programs, comes shortly after OPM announced that such instructions were coming although without indicating a timeframe.
The authority provides for two weeks of leave for full-time employees—prorated for part-time employees—within a 12 month period, although with eligibility rules that generally mirror policies under the Family and Medical Leave Act. For the employee, that means being currently employed, having served under a permanent or term appointment for at least one year, and being covered by Title 5 annual and sick leave authorities; for children it means being under age 18, or if older incapable of self-support because of a disability.
“An employee is entitled to use bereavement leave upon request if the employee meets all conditions and requirements,” it says, while an agency “may require that an employee provide a written self-certification or other documentation (e.g., death certificate) to verify that the requested bereavement leave is being used for bereavement purposes.”
Once such a period begins it generally is to be continuous unless there is a mutual agreement between the employing agency and the employee to allow intermittent use.
Further, if an agency determines that an employee used other paid leave to cover a period of time for which bereavement leave could have been used since last December 27, it “may allow the employee to retroactively substitute bereavement leave for such other paid leave upon making a determination that the employee lacked information or was not allowed to use bereavement leave at the time.”
It adds that employees also may continue to use sick leave for some related purposes as allowed under prior policy. That authority, to use up to 13 days of sick leave, applies only to “making arrangements necessitated by the death of the employee’s child or to attend the child’s funeral; it does not cover the broader purpose of bereavement,” OPM noted.
The guidance also covers situations such as employees being on flexible work schedules or changing agencies or leaving federal employment while they still have eligibility remaining.