Bereavement can be challenging and difficult for businesses and managers to respond to when one of their employees are going through a devastating situation. It is important to understand that everyone deals with grief differently and each bereavement is unique.
What are your obligations?
Acas state that Section 57(A) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 gives a “day one” right for an employee to have ‘reasonable’ time off work to deal with an emergency, such as a bereavement involving a dependant.
Employers are not required to pay for time off, however many employers do give some paid compassionate leave.
We would advise that you have a policy that clear sets out what the employee is expected to do in such circumstances and this is communicated to the workforce.
Impact on employers
A loss of a loved one can have long term effects and as employers you want to be able to minimise the severity of those effects.
There may be an increase in absence. This could be due to many factors such as feeling and being ill mentally and physically or having to make necessary practical arrangements at home. Another reason could be that they may feel anxious coming back in to work and seeing their work colleagues. The employee may experience a loss of confidence. Any increased in absence has a significant impact on the bottom line and management time, so managing this effectively will reduce this.
The employee may behave out of character, which could impact on the team and productivity.
Other employees within the team or business may not understand fully the situation and may be frustrated that the employee is taking time off for a length of time. Employers need to be mindful of bullying and harassment in these cases.
If not managed effectively, employee retention may be affected and morale in the rest of the business too, as they will be able to see how the business treats their employees in times of grief.
How can businesses support employees?
Acknowledge their loss and find out how you can help them during this time. It is important to get their perspective and not to portray your own perceptions on how they should be behaving and feeling at this time. Stay in regular contact, do not ignore the situation.
Consider if there are any adjustments to be made- offer phased return, work from home, work nearer home, flexible hours?
If there are any large organisational changes scheduled be mindful of the current mental state of the employee and how this may impact on them.
Have a clear bereavement policy in place that is easily accessible and communicated to all staff. Ensure that this policy is tailor made for the business.
Ask the employee how much information they would like their colleagues to know.
Training for line managers is a crucial element of support employees during a bereavement, they play a key role. It will be important for the line managers to understand that everyone grieves in different ways and will need support differently. Line managers should be able to revert to the policy for support and guidance as well as HR. In order to understand and be able to support the employee effectively the employers should learn about the 5 signs/stages of grief- Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.
Sometimes businesses experience a death of one of their employees. During this time, it be able advisable to offer counselling through an employee assistance programme. Offer the opportunity for employees to discuss the employee and the situation where necessary.
For additional support, look into contacting charities or local support groups.
Work may be a welcomed distraction for the employee, something to focus on. It is important to understand that a quick return does not mean that they have fully recovered from the situation. Be sensitive and limit your expectations during this early period.
Carry out a return to work meeting and maintain open and honest dialogue in the coming months after.
Employers must also be mindful of potential discrimination situations.
There are many ways to support employees and we can advise further on those and any practical steps and guidance. Please call our HR Specialists for a confidential chat, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.