Supporting your bereaved employee

Supporting your bereaved employee

March 21, 2023

When you hear the news that an employee has suffered a bereavement it may not be the best time to consider your strategy towards how you will support bereaved employees. You see whenever we hear bad news it can be default human nature to want to solve the problem. For example, a common phrase we have heard used is “just take what ever time you need.” This is fine until such point that you are unable to cope with the cost of the employee’s absence from work. You then go back to the employee and explain that you can no longer give them paid time off. What do they do? They accuse you of being uncaring.

Therefore its might be better to have considered your approach to bereaved employees before someone tells you that they are bereaved.

8 Points to consider when supporting your bereaved employee

Here’s some ideas as to what you might want to consider in advance, in order to support bereaved employees:

  1. Have your statutory policies in place. For example since 2020 we have paid parental bereavement leave and pay for employees who sadly lose a child. Communicate those policies so everyone know where they are and how to follow them.
  2. Consider what you will arrange on behalf of the organisation and their colleagues, it might be flowers, a donation at the time of the funeral (many people will raise money for a good cause by means of collection) or whether it’s a with sympathy card. Think about who does what and when.
  3. Consider whether you would like to invest in an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) for your team. This service allows you to have counselling available for a bereaved employee for whatever stage of bereavement they are at. We firmly recommend EAP here at Redwing. Here’s a link to request a quote for EAP.
  4. Consider whether you can afford to allow a number of days paid bereavement or compassionate leave. If you decide you can you would add this to your Employee Handbook. You may find the benefit of this strategy is that an employee will not expect you to fund more time off and may request holiday or even unpaid authorised time off if they need longer.
  5. Consider what support your bereaved employee may need? They may need space to talk to someone outside of the family. They may wish to be at work as it keeps them distracted. They may need to travel overseas. Here’s an earlier blog where we talk about the importance of supporting a bereaved employee with their religious observance.
  6. Who will inform their colleagues? Some employees request that their Line Manager shares the news that the employee has had a bereavement. Others prefer the news to be kept confidential.
  7. Consider how will you support the colleagues of the bereaved employee. When someone learns that a colleague is bereaved they might need your support to know how to ‘support’ their colleague. Remember bereavement can bring up painful memories for some and questions about mortality for others. It is not uncommon for colleagues to struggle to support a bereaved colleague as they do not know what to say. This can be fine, but it can lead to frustration on both sides. There can be no one ‘right’ approach.
  8. Don’t be suprised if the employee is signed off work by the GP before you can approach to discuss what they need. We find that many people obtain a Statement of Fitness for Work due to the impact of the bereavement. This can be when it first happens or some time later. We know of an employee who is still not sleeping, 3 months after their parent has passed away. They are unfit for work and have been signed off with bereavement. In these circumstances keeping in touch will be essential if they to ever return to work.

Online Course

We have created a online course on Bereavement at Work. It’s not something that managers are taught when they do management qualifications, and we feel its an essential knowledge for all managers.

If we can be of any assistance, please contact us on 01527 909436.

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