Belgium wants to extend mourning leave, ‘distressing that the Netherlands does not have it’

In the Netherlands, there is no funeral leave if your child or partner dies. Belgium, on the other hand, intends to extend the funeral leave for such situations from now three days to ten days later. โ€œThat seems to me very good to introduce here tooโ€, says grieving expert Paul Boelen.

According to the professor of clinical psychology at Utrecht University, such a step would mean the โ€œemancipation of mourningโ€. โ€œIt would send a signal that we are taking this issue seriously. Like something you can take your time for and not whats over after a few days. And it can help people not have to fight with their employers.โ€


After the loss of a loved one, people regularly get in the crunch with their work, concluded union CNV last year. One in ten got a burnout, and one in five said they had too little support from their employer. The research was done among 1100 workers whose close of kin had died.

For employees who lost a partner or child, 14 percent of respondents said they lost their jobs because they could no longer function properly. One in three reported sick for a long time and almost one in four had to deal with a burnout.

โ€œSalt in the wound.โ€

Marrit van Exel (53) knows the situation: she lost her husband in 2011 and her daughter seven years later. โ€œWhen my husband died, I had an untitled laundry list of administrative things I had to deal with. All these actions feel like sprinkling salt in the wound. Your life is completely confused and you have to keep balls in the air.โ€

She is convinced that introducing mourning leave would help people in her situation. The petition she started in December last year was signed more than 45,000 times.

What are the rules?

Although funeral leave is not specifically laid down by law, there are often agreements about it in collective agreements or employment contracts. In the event of loss of a direct family member, it is also possible to resort to so-called emergency leave. But if other agreements have been made in the collective agreement for such a situation, then only those agreements apply.

According to CNV, the differences between collective agreements are often large. As a result, employees who lose a close person depend on the understanding of the employer, writes the union. โ€œThrough my terms of employment, I got a couple of days leave,โ€ says Van Exel. โ€œBut that was really not enough for me, so I had reported sick.โ€

In Belgium, the Chamber Committee on Social Affairs gave the green light to extend the existing funeral leave. Since that was a unanimous decision, it is very likely that Parliament will also agree.

In the event of the death of a resident child or a partner, Belgians will then be entitled to 10 days off. Three of them must be required to be admitted between death and funeral. The remaining seven days can be used within one year.

โ€œ Ten days is a nice symbolic number,โ€ says Professor Boelen. โ€œIn addition to administrative matters, it also gives room for some emotional processing.โ€ He emphasizes that it is not enough to process everything, although it is very important for a person how good or bad people cope with the death of a loved one.

Difference is harrowing.

Van Exel mentions ten days a good step, but in her petition pleads for mourning leave with a similar duration to maternity and childbirth leave. That is 6 weeks and 10 weeks respectively.

It also refers to the existence of birth leave and parental leave. โ€œThere is much possible about birth, but not on death. I find that difference poignant. And I think its because of insufficient awareness of the impact of loss.โ€