In February, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg announced that the company will offer 20 days of paid bereavement leave for employees who lose a direct family member, and 10 paid days of leave for those who lose an extended family member. This doubles the amount of bereavement leave previously available to employees. The company also added six paid weeks of time off to care for a sick relative, on top of its existing paid parental leave policy. The changes came after Sandberg’s loss of her husband, Dave Goldberg, in 2015.
In a Facebook post, Sandberg wrote:
There have been many times when I’ve been grateful to work at companies that supported families. When my son was born and I could take time off to focus on him. When my daughter came along and I got that time all over again. Every time one of them got sick, both my husband Dave and I had the ability to leave work to take care of them so we could decide whose turn it was to supply the patient with ginger ale. And then amid the nightmare of Dave’s death when my kids needed me more than ever, I was grateful every day to work for a company that provides bereavement leave and flexibility. I needed both to start my recovery.
Sandberg noted that only 60 percent of private-sector workers have access to paid time off for bereavement. Further, some 40 million workers lack any paid time off, even sick time, according to the Center for American Progress, with low-paid workers least likely to have access to paid leave.
Toward a More Compassionate Culture
“…Jim Santucci, executive director of Kara—the Palo Alto, Calif.-based grief counseling organization that Sandberg turned to for support following Goldberg’s death—argues that policy changes are not enough,” writes Ainsley Harris at Fast Company. “To better serve grieving employees, companies need to ‘develop a compassionate culture.’”
Santucci tells Harris that this “starts at the top.” He says Sandberg’s vulnerability in dealing with her grief might have helped Facebook employees in similar situations as much as increasing their leave.
“I think when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice,” she wrote in another Facebook post (as quoted in her recent Time profile). “You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past 30 days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void.”
Sandberg’s latest book, with coauthor Adam Grant, is Plan B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.
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