On bereavement leave

This is a bit behind the curve, but I’ve been away. Last week the opening bargaining proposals of B.C. teachers made the media rounds. One of the things focused on was the teachers’ proposal to increase bereavement leave from 5 days to 10. It was mostly portrayed in a negative light. An extravagance. As the Courier’s Kudos & Kvetches notes:

Whenever we hear that the B.C. Teachers’ Federation is in contract talks, we shudder. We shudder because we know exactly how things will play out. The BCTF will make extreme demands, be it a 34 per cent wage increase as was the case a few years ago or lengthy paid leaves. The unrealistic demands are part of the bargaining process, the BCTF will argue: ask for a lot and meet somewhere in the middle. But we also know that newspapers and media outlets like to cherry pick these sensationalist demands. And the public reaction is predictable: Can you believe what those greedy teachers are asking for now?

But this isn’t really about those bargaining negotiations. I’m not sure if 10 days is too much, too little, or just right.

My mother passed away a few weeks ago. I am fortunate that my employer granted 3 days of bereavement leave. Those 3 days were spent running around trying to organize my mother’s cremation, her memorial service and informing friends and family. There was no time to grieve. I am fortunate too that my father is still alive and we were able to divvy up all the things we had to do.

After 3 days, despite loose ends remaining, I went back to work – turning the burden fully over to my retired father. I could have taken more time off, but it would have been unpaid.

I am one of the fortunate ones. All too many of us experience this (from the comments of the above story):

My girlfriend got 1 day when her brother died.

Was it paid? Who knows. Did she have family to help? Unknown. Did she, like myself, have young children to take care off too? Maybe. How do we, as a society, deal with death? How does the workplace? Right now, it falls mostly on to the shoulders of the individual. It’s a real burden, financially and emotionally. Is it the way it should work, because this is the way it’s always been? One day (and knock on wood, hopefully not for a long, long time), I will have to go through this with my Dad.

Commenter “Joe” goes on:

What makes these teachers think they deserve better?

“Joe”‘s girlfriend was, in my opinion, treated very poorly. As mentioned, this is all too common. Joe’s reaction is all too common too though. Instead of advocating for bereavement leave for all so that no one has to go through what his girlfriend did, he want’s to take it away from those that do. So we all suffer. Equally.

One of humanity’s quirks, that.

Update: I was talking to a member of my Ultimate team last night. She too recently lost her mother to cancer. Like me, she was granted 3 days bereavement leave. Unlike me, for whatever reason, she needed more time off to help her deal with her grief. She requested a 3 month [unpaid] leave from her employer. It was turned down.

She resigned.

Fair? Unfair? All I know is that is the stark choice many employees have to make when coming to grips with the death of loved ones.

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