Walmart Bereavement and How It Compares to Big Retail

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Small and newer retailers may look to big retail as a model for creating HR policies. 

But don’t follow the big companies blindly. 

First, you need to know precisely what they offer, how it stacks up to other companies, and whether it’s good for the employees.

In the case of Walmart, the retail giant matches its counterparts’ offerings with their bereavement policy. But before you think that’s a good thing, know that all of their policies are pretty terrible.

Here, I’ll discuss what Walmart’s bereavement policy entails, how to get bereavement leave, provide a detailed comparison to others in big retailers, analyze the policy, and give my advice on what the company needs to improve.

Walmart’s Bereavement Leave Policy

Walmart offers all staff three days of paid bereavement leave as standard, including hourly associates, salaried employees, and ecommerce employees. I checked Walmart’s documentation for each type of worker, and employees do not need to use their paid time off (PTO) hours to cover this three-day period. 

According to anecdotal evidence, employees don’t have to take the three days consecutively. For instance, an employee may take a day off initially to be with family and then another day to attend the funeral.

Employees who require additional time off must request a personal leave of absence and may use their PTO hours until their PTO balance reaches zero. Walmart employees earn PTO hours as they work. The longer they’ve worked for the company, the more paid time off hours they receive

At Walmart, the personal leave of absence allowed for bereavement is up to 12 weeks. But if an employee has used their three bereavement days and doesn’t have PTO hours left, this period is unpaid and isn’t job-protected. This means their job may not be there when they’re ready to return to work.

Some evidence suggests the three-day paid bereavement leave policy applies to the employee’s immediate family, such as parents, spouses, children, siblings,  grandparents, grandchildren, and anybody that resides in the employee’s home. Managers may grant bereavement leave for the loss of other close loved ones at their discretion.

How to Get Bereavement Leave at Walmart

Employees must speak to their supervisor as soon as possible to notify them of their need for bereavement leave. They may direct any questions about bereavement leave to their facility manager or HR representative.

The supervisor assesses employee circumstances to determine how much time off an employee needs. They consider:

  • How the employee is related to the deceased
  • The amount of travel required to attend a funeral or service
  • How much time off they’ve had in the previous 12 months
  • How their absence will impact the workings of the location

At this point, the supervisor may offer further options if they feel the employee may need more time off, particularly a personal leave of absence.

Walmart uses the mySedgwick portal to manage absences. To request a personal leave of absence, employees must:

  1. Speak to their manager and contact mySedgwick online or by phone.
  2. Input the reason for their leave (bereavement).
  3. Provide their Walmart Identification Number (WIN), two-week work schedule, and the date of the last day they worked.
  4. Input whether they intend to take leave in a block or incrementally and give an estimated return-to-work date.
  5. Opt-in to receive a response via email or text to get important information and their application result as soon as possible.
  6. Review the information packet sent by Sedgwick.
  7. Complete the release of information form.
  8. Upload any requested documents, if possible.
  9. Monitor the status of their leave, which should go from “pending” to “approved” or “denied” within approximately one day.

There are also some actions to take before the employee returns to work. They’ll receive an email to confirm the return-to-work date before the end of their leave. They must also complete a return-to-work certification form at least three days before returning to work.

How Walmart’s Bereavement Compares to the Rest of Big Retail

Most major retail stores in the US offer the same standard bereavement leave policy of three days when an employee loses an immediate family member. 

The terms of the bereavement leave only differ slightly from chain to chain:

Target – Team members who average 20 or more hours per week are eligible for three paid days for the death of an immediate family member. When close friends or extended family pass away, the employee is entitled to four paid hours of bereavement leave. Seasonal, limited, and part-time staff are not eligible for bereavement leave.

Amazon – Both full-time and part-time staff are entitled to three paid days off when they lose an immediate family member or parent. The policy extends to foster, step, and adopted parents as well as anybody living in the employee’s home.

Best Buy – Full-time team members are provided up to five days of paid bereavement leave for the death of a family member, and part-time employees are eligible for two paid days off. Seasonal employees do not qualify for bereavement leave.

Costco – Both full-time and part-time employees who have been with the company for over 90 days receive three days of paid bereavement leave.

CVS – Employees are entitled to three paid days off for the loss of an immediate family member, and they may receive one additional paid day for travel where necessary.

In some instances, Walmart offers a slightly better bereavement leave policy than other stores. For example, Walmart includes both full and part-time employees for full bereavement benefits, whereas Best Buy doesn’t.

Also, at Walmart, there doesn’t seem to be a threshold for how long an employee must be with the company before they’re entitled to paid bereavement leave. While Costco employees, for example, need to have completed 90 days of work before they can take time off for a loss.

Whether paid bereavement leave extends to close family and friends is at the discretion of individual Walmart managers. So, Target does better here as other close people are written into the policy. Similarly, an additional paid day for travel is written into policy for CVS employees, which is something Walmart doesn’t offer. 

Overall, it’s safe to say that most major retailers are on par with one another regarding their bereavement leave policies, except for Best Buy, which offers five days. All are equally inadequate in providing employees with limited options and a small amount of time to handle family affairs and grieve a lost loved one.

Is Walmart’s Bereavement Any Good?

Walmart’s bereavement policy is standard among big retailers. But like you’ve been asked, “If your buddy jumped off a cliff, would you?” It isn’t okay to have a poor bereavement policy just because everybody else does.

Consider how much a person must take care of when a loved one dies. There are serious responsibilities, such as making funeral arrangements, handling finances and insurance claims, emotionally distressing tasks like clearing out their home, informing friends and family, and so much more. Then there is the funeral itself. Three days of bereavement leave isn’t enough time to do all this.

It certainly isn’t enough time to even start the grieving process. Grief can affect an employee’s work performance and mental health. It’s not good for their well-being, work-life balance, and overall job satisfaction, which affects the company, too.

You could argue that Walmart employees have enough time for bereavement leave when they take a personal leave of absence. They can even use their PTO hours to get paid during this time.

The only trouble is that there’s a chance the employee has used up their PTO hours already. Or they may not have earned many hours if they haven’t been with the company for long. Walmart works on a system where the longer you’ve been with the company, the more paid time off you’re entitled to.

You can imagine employees having to save their PTO hours in case of emergencies or when they know a loved one is sick, and this is bound to add further to job dissatisfaction.

Plus, at Walmart, a personal leave of absence isn’t job-protected, meaning if an employee takes an extra couple of weeks off to grieve, their job might not be there when they return. Imagine having a fear of losing your job over your head on top of the grief and stress of losing a loved one.

Another aspect that seems good but only on the surface level is that employees may take bereavement leave for other loved ones at the manager’s discretion. 

One member of staff claims they were raised by an uncle but were advised their claim would need supporting evidence in the form of an obituary if they applied for bereavement leave, and they were told their claim would most likely be denied. Though unclear, this suggests that Walmart’s three-day bereavement leave period isn’t actually guaranteed for extended family or other close loved ones.

Consider the fact that the manager decides how much time off an employee is allowed, even when losing an immediate family. So, technically, an employee could lose an “immediate family member,” but if the manager deems the time off too disruptive to the workplace, for example, they may only allow one day of bereavement leave. 

It’s possible that to get what they deserve, employees must have good standing with their manager and the ability to make their case. The potential for inconsistency and inequity here is astounding, and this is characteristic of Walmart’s hit-and-miss bereavement policy.

What Should Walmart Change About Their Bereavement Policy?

Every company, especially one with as many associates as Walmart, needs to get its bereavement policy right. The bereavement policy affects employee productivity and retention, not to mention the perception of the brand among potential new recruits and customers.

To give some context, as the CEO, I’ve crafted a bereavement policy that provides 10 paid days off in the event of an immediate family member’s or close loved one’s death. Those 10 days can be taken consecutively or in smaller blocks at any point within three months of the death. Not all families look the same, and people need to be able to grieve the way that works for them. My policy focuses on compassion, not productivity, and includes miscarriages.

Here are my thoughts on how Walmart could improve its bereavement policy:

Extend Bereavement Leave

I believe employees need at least ten days to handle affairs, make funeral arrangements, and start the grieving process. If Walmart were to provide ten days, they should continue with the flexibility evident in their existing policy. As it stands, Walmart employees don’t need to take their three paid bereavement days consecutively.

It would be bold for Walmart to step away from the pack when most big retailers currently offer just three days of bereavement leave. But the great thing would be that others would need to follow suit in order to retain staff and attract new talent in a competitive landscape. After all, employees will likely go to the company that offers them the best benefits and shows they care about their employees.

Address Inconsistencies

There’s a lot of potential for inconsistencies in Walmart’s bereavement policy. For example, personal anecdotes show that in some cases, Walmart asks employees for proof of death; in others, they don’t.

For starters, asking for proof of death is a bad idea as it fosters mistrust between employees and leadership. But it also shows that what happens from store to store and manager to manager can be hugely disparate.

Over two million associates work at Walmart. So, the company needs to make its policies clear and consistent. 

In this and many other instances, the resolution would be a simple matter of writing into policy exactly what management is supposed to do when an employee loses a family member. Or, at the very least, Walmart should add more guidance for managers and ensure that policies remain consistent across locations.

Reduce the Burden on Employees

Currently, if an employee decides to take a personal leave of absence for bereavement reasons and they have no paid time off hours in their balance, their job isn’t protected. 

In many cases, holding an employee’s spot within the company wouldn’t be difficult. All the manager would need to do is fill those hours temporarily by offering other staff overtime or using temporary workers.

Therefore, I believe Walmart should protect employees’ jobs for at least four weeks when they lose a close loved one. This reduces strain on employees in a difficult time and shows the company values their employees and cares about their mental and emotional health.

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