Managing Bereavement in the Workplace

While the law states that all employees are entitled to reasonable time off work to deal with bereavement, it’s not always clear to everyone what this means. Firstly, it only entitles an employee to unpaid leave. Secondly, “reasonable” means something different to all of us. As a result, employers can sometimes be unsure as to the best way of dealing with bereaving employees and can potentially alienate others if they don’t handle bereavement considerately. Fortunately, Acas has recently published some very informative guidance on the subject.

Acas recommends two possibilities. Either that a single period of paid leave is provided to all employee regardless of circumstance. Or, a tariff of leave is provided based on circumstances such as the relationship of the deceased to the grieving employee. A blanket approach probably isn’t the best option because individuals deal with bereavement in different ways and religious factors could influence the length of mourning.

Personnel Today mentions a different method where bereavement leave can be granted on a discretionary basis. This could be agreed on in private between management and the employee in question but employers should be careful with this approach so they do not unlawfully discriminate.

Supporting bereaving employees is mutually beneficial

Some people cope with loss easier than others. While some may come in to work and seem hardly effected, others will struggle to manage their emotions. In both circumstances, regardless of whether emotions are evident, bereavement can affect employees’ productivity and work relationships. Therefore, employers must be considerate and conduct a well-planned and managed approach to bereavement at work. This is benefits both employee and employer in a variety of ways, including:

  • Faster return to normal productivity levels
  • Shows colleagues that management is considerate
  • Reduces absenteeism & sick leave
  • Helps with team morale
  • Reduces chances of staff turnover

For more information on dealing with absenteeism in the workplace, or guidance on how to ensure early intervention, sign up to our great fortnightly newsletter here.