How to Support Your Bereaved Employees

Business owners and managers who ignore bereavements among their staff are causing themselves problems needlessly.

By turning your back on employees who have recently lost someone close to them, you can gain a reputation of being an uncaring employer, something that will ultimately lead to greater recruitment and retention costs down the line. Equally, people who are bereaved and feel unsupported in the workplace will sometimes become resentful. More often than not, this will lead to a long-term drop in performance. Your company’s productivity will suffer and you could even end up dealing with costly errors that have been made.

In other words, supporting bereaved employees makes sense from a commercial point of view. Successful businesses will have the right HR procedures in place to handle bereavements among employees fairly. However, numerous SMEs don’t operate with a bereavement policy and some don’t even offer compassionate leave. If your enterprise falls into that category, then the first thing you can do is to put the right procedures in place. At least, then, all your employees will know what is allowed in the event of the loss of a loved one. What’s more, they’ll all understand that they are being dealt with equitably and not on an ad hoc basis, something that can cause workplace animosity to build up between team members.

What should you do if an employee reports that they have suffered the loss of someone close to them?

  • Your initial managerial response is important because it will be remembered. In short, be caring and compassionate. Make time for your employee and reassure them that you will remain supportive.
  • Let your employee know that they won’t have to come into work for at least that day and that time off from compassionate or annual leave will be possible for the funeral. If that means organisational stress for you, then don’t allow the employee to feel responsible for it. They’re not responsible for the bereavement, after all.
  • Ask your employee how and when you will stay in contact with each other. A preferred method might be a text message or a phone call but check which times of the day might be best. It is also a good idea to ask whether you have permission to relay information on to colleagues who may be concerned. Don’t assume you can do this. Ask what your employee is happy for you to say.
  • When your employee returns to work, ask for a one-to-one meeting with them so you can ensure they feel up to returning to work. Try to avoid saying things like ‘everything is back to normal’ because it may not feel like this despite outward appearances.
  • Understand that your employee’s performance may suffer temporarily while they are dealing with grief. Organise different workloads, if appropriate, and make reasonable allowances for them as they make progress through the grieving process.
  • Bear in mind that your employee may still have extra care needed from a managerial point of view well after the funeral service. Perhaps there will be an inquest or even a trial to contend with? Even the deceased’s birthday or the anniversary of their death can cause additional emotional stress, so continue to take a caring and fair-minded attitude as time progresses.

For more advice on how to support your bereaved employees please contact Newrest Funerals today.