Bereavement at work guidance launched

New guidance has been published to help employers support employees following bereavement.

Workplace expert Acas, which published the guide on 17 September, said that research had found that a third of employees who had suffered bereavement in the past five years felt they had not been treated with compassion by their employer.

Acas’ new guide has been developed in partnership with Cruse Bereavement Care, bereavement leave campaigner Lucy Herd and other organisations.

Acas chair Sir Brendan Barber said: “Grief from the death of a loved one can be an extremely sad and emotional experience for anyone. It can affect people in different ways in the workplace and managers should have the skills needed to handle it.

“Our guide aims to help employers manage this difficult situation with their employee in the immediate aftermath of bereavement as well as longer term.

“It includes advice for managers on how to get the balance right in order to be supportive, compassionate, flexible and practical towards employees who are dealing with bereavement.”

Debbie Kerslake, chief executive of Cruse Bereavement Care – which works with more than 40,000 bereaved people each year – said: “This new guide provides extremely helpful and straightforward advice for employers and managers about what to do when an employee is bereaved, from taking the first call, helping the employee return to work to providing ongoing support.”

Acas’ guidance covers key points including:

  • employers can prepare for managing bereavement in the workplace by having a clear policy on it and training managers, HR teams and selected staff to have compassionate and effective conversations with bereaved colleagues
  • some employees may feel able to return to work very swiftly while others may need more time
  • it is often difficult for bereaved employees to judge how they will feel in the workplace and a swift return to work does not necessarily mean that an employee will not need support
  • there are likely to be ups and downs as a person suffering from grief adjusts to life without the person they lost
  • employers need to be mindful of the family unit of the bereaved employee and appreciate that a flexible approach, such as offering part-time hours or flexible working, can be helpful in supporting and retaining the employee and minimising sick days.

Link: The Acas guidance