Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg on doubling bereavement leave

The COO has opened up about dealing with the sudden loss of her husband...

Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg on doubling bereavement leave

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, during a press conference in Berlin, Germany, January 2016. Picture by: Kay Nietfeld/DPA/PA Images

Two years on from the death of her husband, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg has revealed how the company helped her cope with the loss and get through the grieving process.

The chief operating officer had been holidaying with her husband in Mexico when David Goldberg, who was CEO of SurveyMonkey, suffered a heart arrhythmia while exercising on a treadmill.

To aid her recovery following the tragedy, Sandberg resolved to write a book on the experience, backed with research on how to deal with the loss of a loved one.

Now promoting Option B, coauthored with Adam Grant, she spoke to Business Insider about her difficult two years.

Sandberg made the case that the period was made somewhat easier due to Facebook's compassionate approach and argued that grief leave is just as important as maternity and paternity leave.

Indeed, under her watch, bereavement leave has been doubled.

"We used to offer 10 days for immediate family and five days for extended family," she told Alyson Shontell, Business Insider's US editor-in-chief.

"So immediate family, a parent, a child. Extended family, a grandparent. Now it's 20 and 10. No one's thinking we recover in 20 days but 20 full days off is a good time to get yourself a little more ready to come back if people want to take it, and 10 days is a nice amount of time."

The 47-year-old also called for a "hard look" to be taken at what companies do for the families of the deceased:

"[Like] financial assistance for someone who is working here and they pass away. Their family is very expensive. I've gotten a lot of notes from people who said, 'I read your book. My spouse died and I was cut off from everything in his or her company 24 hours later.' That's just bad corporate policy. I think we have a responsibility, not just to the people who work for us, but to their families."

Sandberg extolled the virtues of the extensive leave options the social media giant now offers, including paid family medical leave and unlimited sick leave. She said:

"Maternity and paternity should be equal and long. [The US is] the only developed country in the world that doesn't have paid maternity leave. Paternity leave is just as important.

"Paid family medical leave so that you can take care of a parent, a child, a grandparent, whatever you need to do. I think we're shortsighted when we don't invest in our employees as companies, and as an economy, because we invest in them and they invest back in us."

Bereavement in Ireland

According to employment law experts Peninsula Ireland, "up to three days paid leave for the death of close family members is common" on Irish shores – "although some organisations may provide five days on a discretionary basis".

The leave is discretionary, meaning that no business is under a legal obligation to provide it. The group advises:

"A close family member is usually defined as a spouse or civil partner, daughter, son, parent, sister or brother and may include grandparents or in laws. In the event of death of grandparents, in laws, aunt or uncle, one day may be granted.

"However custom and practice will also need to be followed. If employees have been given additional paid time off for bereavement in the past, it will be considered unfair not to give this time off to another employee, so the policy the company has in place on bereavement leave should be applied consistently."