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Tips for dealing with grief at work for employers

Bereavement is one of the most distressing things a person can go through and it can be difficult for employers to know how best to help a bereaved employee. In certain cases employees may struggle to cope with the grief and become distant, emotional and lack concentration on their return to work following the loss of a loved one, which could, depending on the nature of the industry and role, pose a risk to the employee and others.

Specialist funeral plan provider, Perfect Choice, has put together some tips to help employers deal with grief at work:

Acknowledge and offer condolences

When you first hear of the bereavement, make sure the employee involved is aware that you've acknowledged the death and offer your condolences. Make sure that an employee knows that they do not have to work on the day that they find out about the death and that they are entitled to bereavement leave.

Gently ask the employee what they would prefer you to tell other employees. It is best to address other employees to let them know what has happened as either 'personal reasons' or 'bereavement' so as to prevent any rumours which may be harmful to the bereaved. Make sure it is made clear that this information is confidential under data protection legislation and is not to be shared outside of the workplace.

Offer bereavement leave

This is initially paid and is really down to your discretion. Paid bereavement leave should be clearly laid out in your company's policy and will be the same for everyone. When considering further time for leave, the official legal requirements are as follows:

"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. This could be a spouse, partner, child, grandchild, parent, or someone who depends on the employee for care. "Reasonable" is not defined and will depend on the situation. 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 amount of bereavement leave offered is really going to depend on the situation and how your employee seems to be dealing with the death. It is all down to compassion and decency. If you feel the employee is not coping well then you can suggest they take further unpaid leave until they return to work.

Keep up to date with how they are feeling

Decide on a plan with the employee of how to keep in contact during their leave. Be considerate when discussing a return to work date. It's a good idea to create an open discussion about your company's bereavement policies and how they are feeling and coping and any adjustments you may need to make, such as some working from home days.

Before their return to work it may be best to ask whether they want to discuss the bereavement with colleagues or if they'd rather keep conversation purely work based. Some employees may want to offer their condolences but if you can let them know beforehand that this is not the best idea then it could reduce the upset for the bereaved.

On their return to work make sure you set up regular meetings so you discuss how they are feeling and any issues they may not be coping with.

Offer extra support

If the employee is struggling, whether they've told you or you've noticed, it might be a good idea to offer extra support whilst they come to terms with their grief. Offer them options for dealing with the bereavement, such as counselling services or extra lenience when it comes to working from home or working hours and shifts.

Overall the main thing to keep in mind is how you would feel in their position and have a sense of compassion when dealing with situations of a sensitive matter.

Perfect Choice Funeral Plans is a trading name of Ecclesiastical Planning Services Limited Reg. No. 2644860 which is registered in England at Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester GL1 1JZ.
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