Bereavement - how to handle and manage from an employers perspective

Alan Price – CEO at BrightHR

November 27 2014

Bereavement impacts us all at some stage whether we are an employer or an employee, however as a manager or an employer it is important that you react in a way that your employee feels they are receiving the support they need. Let me explain.
The loss of a loved one is a tragic time in anyone’s life and as an employer you should always be able to support an employee who is going through an emotionally difficult period. There are, of course, varying levels of support that you can offer to your staff. Legally there isn’t actually any statutory entitlement for employees in relation to taking bereavement leave, neither is there any entitlement in relation to pay for any time taken off. With this in mind, it is up to your discretion to allow an employee time off in order for them to mourn and decide when it would be appropriate for the employee to return to work. Each person is different and will react to loss in varying ways, with this in mind it may be wise, therefore, to have a broad principle on the amount of time taken as bereavement leave, which simply states that, because individual reactions do vary greatly, that the length of bereavement leave, paid or otherwise, will be determined on the basis of individual circumstances. This is not the only way that you can lend support to your employees; the emergence of employee assistance programmes has seen companies have a real chance to enhance the wellbeing of their workforce. Bereavement is such a serious issue that you cannot ignore it – if you do then it will end up significantly costing your business in the long run. The initial costs of allowing employees the time off that they need to recover from a family loss or implementing a workplace support system would be very insignificant compared to the cost of an employee going off on long term sickness because they were rushed back to work. Additionally when employees see how much you value them and take time to look after them when they need it most, they will subsequently repay the care you showed for them and put that back into the business for you. If you do offer an Employee Assistance Programme then offer the option, trained counsellors can provide reassurance and guidance and help to reassure the employee concerned. Finally managers should support their staff as much as they possibly can, because without the employees no company would be able to carry on operating.

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