HR struggling to provide bereavement support

HR struggling to provide bereavement support

Almost half (45%) of HR departments do not have agreed policies in place to cope with the aftermath of the death of an employee, and 64% do not have procedures for supporting staff who are diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Despite a lack of policies, the research from MetLife Employee Benefits found that 92% of HR departments offer flexible working, 24% provide access to bereavement helplines through their employee benefits provider and 13% offer face-to-face counselling.

In the past two years, around 13% of HR departments have experienced managing a workplace following the death of an employee, and nearly one in three (31%) have had to provide bereavement support to a member of staff who have suffered from a death in the family.

Employees are entitled to take a reasonable amount of time off to deal with the aftermath of the death of a dependant (spouse, child or parent and includes someone who relies on the employee for the provision of care).

To mitigate the stress on individuals a death can have, two out of five HR departments say they are considering providing training for line managers to help them support staff, and a third are thinking about introducing specialist support services.

Tom Gaynor, Employee Benefits Director at MetLife UK, comments: “Bereavement is sadly something which will affect most employees and companies need to have agreed procedures in place to ensure staff and their families have support when they need it.

“Companies clearly want to be supportive and sympathetic but it is surprising that so many do not have clear policies and procedures in place for bereavement in the workplace. HR departments recognise it is an issue but need support in addressing it.”

Comments (3)

  • Bonnie Tompkins
    Bonnie Tompkins
    Thu, 12 Jan 2017 6:43pm GMT
    When I lost my partner, my workplace had nothing in their staff manual. While the owner was great and said to take all the time I needed, because I had no clear direction I was worried might getting fired if I took too much time. Just as stressful. Literature say clear guidelines put the person at ease.

    This is why I am working on the Compassionate City Charter and working with workplaces to become more compassionate towards their staff. I hope to help make a cultural shift. Any suggestions on articles or books to read for a Canadian, please comment away. Meeting with a HR professional association tomorrow to talk about this idea.
  • Victoria Noe
    Victoria Noe
    Thu, 12 Jan 2017 4:55pm GMT
    When I wrote my book - Friend Grief and the Workplace: More Than an Empty Cubicle - I took pains to include all kinds of workplaces. Not just offices, but theatres, TV newsrooms, rectories, baseball parks. Loss is loss, no matter where you work.

    Bereavement policies that I researched were almost wholly inadequate. Bereavement consisted of lists of allowed paid time off. Very few - maybe 10%, though all were in the US) - addressed the death of a coworker, manager or owner.

    Those left behind had to fend for themselves to deal with personal and professional loss. Not having a policy, one that is created with input from the employees themselves, is a disservice to everyone.
  • Lucy Herd
    Lucy Herd
    Thu, 12 Jan 2017 9:57am GMT
    This is why my campaign for statutory Bereavement Leave is vital. Grief and Bereavement are still such taboo subjects to talk about, although as a nation we have got better. Let's hope 2017 ensures employees are treated with the compassion they neied. On the back of this I have developed a simple tool for employers to use to help grieving employees

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