An Employer’s Guide to Compassionate Bereavement Support

Suffering the loss of a family member, partner or friend can be devastating, grieving employees need to be supported in the workplace and it’s important to realise grief affects everyone differently. Some people want to get on with their daily lives and busy themselves with work as a distraction. Others struggle to cope with everyday life following a bereavement, and find work difficult to manage, and therefore dealing with bereavement leave can be difficult for employers.

Regardless of the impact, most bereaved employees will need to take some time off unexpectedly and employers should have policies in place to deal with this sad, but inevitable eventuality.

Research by the CIPD found 54% of employees said that they were aware of their employer having a policy or support in place for employees experiencing bereavement while many employees were not aware of any support available.

The Law

Since April 2020 all employees have a legal right to paid bereavement leave for parents who lose a child under the age of 18.

At present employees have no legal rights to bereavement leave and pay to employees experiencing the loss of a close family member, and therefore this is at the employer’s discretion.

However, an employer’s response to an employee’s devastating loss demonstrates that the Company cares and understands that the employee needs time to put aside work to process and manage difficult personal feelings. Providing a compassionate and supportive approach demonstrates that the employer values its employees, which helps build commitment and is likely to reduce sickness absence and help retain employees.

What can employers do?

Employers can support grieving employees by providing compassionate and flexible responses in the immediate aftermath of bereavement and in the longer term. Below are some key points for employers to consider:

  • Have a policy on bereavement leave as part of building a respectful workplace and demonstrating you care about employees’ wellbeing. The policy should cover aspects like reporting a bereavement, any leave and pay and returning to work, and also consider individual circumstances;
  • Develop an open culture of support to help people feel more comfortable raising any issues and asking for support;
  • Train line managers so they understand the Company’s bereavement policy and support structure, and educate them to show empathy and compassion. Empathy in the workplace builds loyalty and nowhere is an employer’s empathy more openly exposed than in its attitude to compassionate leave;
  • Provide information on workplace support and guide employees to external sources of information and support;
  • Address health and safety obligations in relation to bereavement and avoid discrimination and address the risk of bullying;
  • Develop flexible responses to individual circumstances and be open to ongoing flexible working provisions.

If you would like further guidance or support on this matter or require advice on other people management matters please contact Clover HR on 0121 516 0299 or email us at info@cloverhr.co.uk

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