State Says Bereavement Leave Already Incorporated in Benefit Package

Posted: November 2, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Heather Aleknavage, executive assistant, College of Arts and Sciences, staff senator, and coordinator of the Support Group for Working Mothers at Mason, appealed to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) several months ago through the Employee Suggestion Program to try to incorporate bereavement leave into the Virginia state employees benefits package. Evaluators from the program reviewed the suggestion and decided not to award it.

Evaluators explained that the Traditional Sick Leave program already permits an employee to use up to 48 hours of accrued sick leave around the death of a family member. The Virginia Sickness and Disability Program (VSDP) also provides up to 40 hours of leave per year for family and other purposes, which may include bereavement as well as other specific needs. Thus, while there is not a specifically designated bereavement leave type, the intent of such leave is presently addressed in existing leave categories.

The Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Human Resource Management is also currently conducting a Leave Benefits Study, which will consider the total package of leave benefits for state employees. “The response from DHRM wasn’t exactly what we wanted to hear, but it is encouraging to know that there is a study under way at the state level, and there’s a good chance that our suggestion will have an impact after all,” says Aleknavage.

Aleknavage was also pleased with the letters of support written by Mason faculty and staff and others—more than 40—including a letter from the chair of the Staff Senate at Radford University. “I would definitely use the Employee Suggestion Program again, and encourage others to do so. I think it’s great that the state has a program in place where employees can make suggestions and they are guaranteed to be reviewed and considered.”

In addition to bereavement leave, Aleknavage and the support group for working mothers at Mason are currently addressing other issues on campus, including advocating for telework, flextime schedules, and child care issues on campus. The next meeting of the Support Group for Working Mothers at Mason will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 16, at noon in the Women’s Center. For more information, contact Aleknavage at

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