Planning ahead will help employers support employees in the event of a bereavement. This means having an organisational bereavement policy and ensuring key staff are properly trained.
Here are some basic guidelines about how to respond when an employee has been bereaved.
- Be caring and compassionate.
- Offer your condolences.
- Ensure the bereaved employee knows they need not come to work on the day of the death, and that work comes second.
- Ask how they would like to stay in contact.
- Ask how much information they want co-workers to know, and if they wish to be contacted by colleagues.
- Consider any family or children who are affected.
- Be conscious of diversity, and accommodate religious beliefs and customs where it is reasonable and practical.
- Stay in regular contact.
- Consider what action to take if the death is in the media.
- Discuss with the employee when it is appropriate to return to work, in accordance with your organisation’s bereavement policy.
- Consider adjustments that may be needed, such as a phased return to work or temporary change of duties.
- On return, hold regular reviews with the bereaved employee.
- Give the employee appropriate leaflets and information about Cruse.
- Take bereavement into account should there be an impact on performance.
- Be aware of changes in personal circumstances, such as caring responsibilities.
- Deal sensitively with requests for further time off in line with your bereavement policy.
- Consider the impact on other members of the team, and watch out for bullying or harassment.
- Be aware that special dates such as inquests, birthdays and the anniversary of a death may have an impact on your employee.
- Remember that the full impact of a bereavement may not be felt until some time after the death.
- Ignore the situation.
- Assume you know how the bereaved employee is feeling – every bereavement is unique.
- Say anything that may minimise or undermine the loss, such as ‘we all have to go sometime’ or ‘she had a good innings’.
- Say anything to make light of bereavement, such as ‘time will heal’; ‘pull yourself together’; ‘it must be a great relief for you’.
- Make the assumption that just because they are back at work they are ‘over it’ and ‘back to normal’.
For more information see Acas guidance ACAS Bereavement in the Workplace guidelines, which was developed in partnership with Cruse.