Supporting a bereaved employee with their religious observance

Supporting a bereaved employee with their religious observance

June 29, 2022

When someone dies relatives will want to ensure that they follow the family’s customs and traditions when it comes to the death.

For many people their family customs and traditions involve religious observance, and as an employer we need to be informed as to what our employee’s might request under religious observance when they are bereaved.

When approached by a bereaved employee asking for time off following a bereavement an employer should consider the requirement of the Equality Act 2010 to where reasonably practicable, to accommodate an employee’s religion and beliefs when a death occurs.

Here’s some customs that may require a bereaved employee to make arrangements that might be in excess of what might be expected. Remember individuals will have their own versions of these, so these are here only to give you an idea as to what might be asked of you with some popular religions.

  1. In Islam burial should take place as soon after the death as is possible. This might mean that your employee needs emergency time off with little or no notice in order to facilitate a burial.
  2. In Judaism, funerals must take place as soon as possible and on the same day as the death if this is practicable. The immediate family of the deceased must stay at home and mourn for 7 days. Following the death of his father or mother the observant male Jew is required to attend the synagogue to pray in the morning, afternoon and evening for 11 months of the Jewish calendar. Such a custom and tradition might mean the employee is taking emergency time off for dependents and making a flexible working request.
  3. In Hinduism, close relatives will observe a 13 day period of mourning after the cremation. The closest male relative may want to take the ashes to the River Ganges in India. Such a custom and tradition might mean the employee is taking emergency time off for dependents and possibly requesting a short notice annual leave to travel with the ashes to India.
  4.  In Sikhism the cremation should take place as soon as possible after the death. Such a custom and tradition may mean the employee is taking emergency time off for dependents.

The biggest mistake an employer can make when a bereaved employee requests time off at short notice is to reject the request as ‘out of hand’. Remember your most loyal, committed employees might one day request that you help and support them to honour their passed relative by them following the customs and traditions of their religion. Where the employer can support the employee at their time of bereavement, the employee will often be more loyal, and more committed following the death.

We have a online class called Bereavement in the Worlkplace to support managers handling this difficult subject. You can find more here.

If you need any assistance in knowing how to support your bereaved employee and their religious observance please contact us on 01527 909436.

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