Research from the CIPD* found that just over half (54%) of employees said that they were aware of their employer having a policy or support in place for employees experiencing bereavement while many were not.

The impact of COVID-19 has created specific challenges and implications and has highlighted the urgent need for employers to provide a compassionate approach to support. Suffering the loss of a family member, partner or friend can be a devastating experience, and grieving employees need to be treated with the utmost compassion and support in the workplace. Bereavement in the workplace can be challenging – employees may need to take time off unexpectedly, find their performance is impacted or be temporarily unable to perform certain roles. However, a compassionate and supportive approach demonstrates that the organisation values its employees, helps build commitment and is likely to reduce sickness absence and help retain employees.

This guide aims to help employers and managers properly support grieving employees by providing compassionate and flexible responses in the immediate aftermath of bereavement and in the longer term. The guide will look at the law relating to bereavement, developing a supportive culture and policy, and the training and support that should be offered to line managers and employees.

*Data was collected as part of the CIPD’s Employee Outlook survey and is based on responses from 1080 working adults. The survey was conducted online by YouGov in June 2020. Figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK working adults (aged 18+).

Key recommendations

  • Bereavement policies and support should be holistic, long term and take into account individual circumstances.
  • Employers should work to be knowledgeable about the law and bereavement, including parental bereavement leave and pay and emergency time off for family and dependants.
  • Employers should address health and safety obligations in relation to bereavement and avoid discrimination and address the risk of bullying.
  • An open culture of support helps people feel more comfortable raising any issues and asking for support. Communicate your approach and embed this culture of support.
  • Develop a bereavement policy, covering aspects like reporting a bereavement, any leave and pay and returning to work.
  • Educate and support people managers to show empathy and compassion. Download the line manager's guide below.
  • Provide training and support so they understand the organisation’s bereavement policy and support structure.
  • Flexibility is key: build flexible responses and be open to ongoing flexible working provisions.
  • Provide information on workplace support and signpost employees to external sources of information and support.

Download the guide and the guide for line managers below.

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