Bereavement in the workplace: how can employers support staff?

Bereavement in the workplace: How can employers support staff?

Taking into consideration the news of Her Majesty the Queen passing this week, Brite Recruitment acknowledges that we need to consider how employers can support staff coping with bereavement, shock, and loss. According to research by C.P.J. Field. more than three quarters (77%) of Brits have suffered a bereavement in their life, however, 24 percent of those say they did not receive the right level of support from their employers. Greif impacts us emotionally, physically, and psychologically. At any time, it’s believed 1 in 10 employees are likely to be affected and whilst this is an intensely personal experience a compassionate and flexible approach from employers can ensure that the impact on both the individual and the organisation is minimised.

What does the Law say?

Section 57(A) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 gives right for an employee to have ‘reasonable’ time off work to deal with an emergency - such as a bereavement involving a dependant. This could be a spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent, or someone who depends on the employee for care. An employer does not have to pay an employee for this time away from work, but many employers offer paid special or compassionate leave. The Equality Act 2010 protects employees with protected characteristics from unlawful discrimination which means when dealing with requests for leave employers must ensure that they do not treat some employees less favourably than others. Employees experiencing mental health difficulties such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, which could be a consequence of bereavement, may be considered disabled in some cases to which the Equality Act 2010 requires employers to make reasonable adjustments for these employees to remove workplace barriers.

How can we as Employers manage Bereavement in the workplace?

Bereavement in the workplace can be challenging to manage. Employees may need to take time off unexpectedly, their performance could be impacted, or be temporarily unable to perform certain roles. However, a compassionate and supportive approach demonstrates that the organisation values its employees, helps build commitment, reduces sickness absence, and retains the workforce (HM Government, 2010). Grief does not have predicted reactions with every individual going through different stages and phases - this should be understood and respected by both employers and colleagues.

Employers can prepare for managing bereavement in the workplace by having a clear bereavement policy, training managers, HR teams and selected staff to have compassionate and effective conversations with bereaved employees. Grief impacts those closest in almost every aspect of their life including thought processes, concentration and sleep patterns, Fatigue, anxiety and mood swings are common. Knowing that they are supported by their employer can help to minimise the employee’s stress levels and reduce or avoid periods of sick leave. Here are some recommendations for Bereavement support-

  • Bereavement policies and support should be fully developed long term and take into account individual circumstances.
  • Employers should be knowledgeable about the law and bereavement
  • An open culture of support helps people feel more comfortable raising any issues and asking for support
  • Educate and support people managers to show empathy and compassion
  • Provide training and support so they understand the organisation’s bereavement policy and support structure
  • Flexibility is key: build flexible responses and be open to ongoing flexible working provisions
  • Provide information on workplace support and signpost employees to external sources of information and support
  • Be open to revising and reviewing the situation with the employee keep the dialogue open
  • Be aware that grief takes time
For more information about Bereavements, Time off for family and dependants and your rights visit -

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