West Memphis adopts new bereavement policy

West Memphis adopts new bereavement policy

City employees will get more time for mourning


West Memphis City Council approved an updated bereavement policy for city workers. Paid funeral leave for immediate relatives had stood at one day. Calling the old “one day off” policy unreasonable, Mayor Bill Johnson asked the council to improve bereavement to reflect the standards commonly set in neighboring cities.

“We need a change to the personnel manual,” said Johnson before the first meeting of the year.

“We’ve overlooked this for years. We’ve only allowed one day for a funeral. When there is a death in the immediate family, one day is just not enough.”

Johnson indicated that the city personnel committee had forwarded the recommendation to council for consideration. Personnel Manager Janice Coleman surveyed other cities examining bereavement policies before asking for expanded time off.

“Janice has done a lot of work on that and is recommending three days,” said Johnson. “That puts us pretty well in line with people around us.

The time off is expanded but the who’s who in relationships stays the same under the revised policy.

“We are leaving everything the same as far as who is family and covered and who is not, said Johnson. “One day is just not enough.”

The mayor wanted to read out the policy and have it set for the whole year.

Passing the policy immediately rather than over a normal six week procedure with City Council would prevent the possibility of someone grieving the loss a family member while being limited to the old standard.

But even moments before the meeting the mayor was waiting on enough City Council members to pass the ordinance in one day. It takes seven members to vote yes to read it out.

“We need one more to read it out,” noted Johnson. Eight Councilors were present by the end of role call. But some questions arose on the floor from councilors that missed the pre-council sessions. “This did come through the personnel committee,” said Chairwoman Ramona Taylor. “We’ve discussed this for the past six months.”

After a brief discussion the three-day bereavement policy for immediate family members passed.

By John Rech