Managing Bereavement leave

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Death is a sensitive issue and one which we all deal with differently. As an employer, we need to deal with all bereavements sensitively but what works for one person may not work for another.

By law, all employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of time off work to deal with bereavement. But what is reasonable? It can be very different for each individual, depending on the circumstances. As an employer, do you know how you would support your employees through a difficult time?

Here are the key facts you should be aware of when dealing with Bereavement leave:

  1. Grief impacts on almost every aspect of the bereaved person’s life. It can interfere with their thought processes, concentration and sleep patterns at a time when they may need to make important decisions. Fatigue, anxiety and mood swings are common. Knowing that they are supported by their employer can help to minimise the employee’s stress levels and reduce or avoid periods of sick leave. (ACAS, Managing bereavement in the workplace -  a good practice guide, 2014)
  2. Employers can prepare for managing bereavement in the workplace by having a clear bereavement policy.
  3. Using an absence tracking system will allow organisations to identify bereavement absence days and investigate any support which may be available.
  4. One key area which is often overlooked when dealing with Bereavement is that the law only entitles an employee to unpaid leave.
  5. As a result of this, employers can be unsure of the best way to deal with employees going through bereavement. This can potentially have an impact on other employees if the situation is not dealt with in a considerate manner.
  6. ACAS recommend that a single period of leave is made available for all employees or implement a scale of leave, based on the circumstances surrounding the bereavement, depending on the employee’s relationship with the deceased, such as a partner or parent.
  7. There are pros and cons with adopting the blanket approach towards bereavement leave and it may leave employers in a position in which they provide too much leave for one employee and not enough for another. 
  8. Another option for employers to consider is to grant bereavement leave on a purely discretionary basis. This can be discussed with the employee at the time of the bereavement and an agreed length of leave can be decided.
  9. In all cases employers need to ensure that they do not unlawfully discriminate against employees, especially when using their discretion.

Bereavement is a sensitive issue and some individuals may seem to be able to cope with their loss, others will struggle with their reactions. In both circumstances, bereavement can affect the efficiency and work relationship of an employee with their colleagues.  With this in mind it is important that employers have a sympathetic and well-thought-out approach to bereavement in the workplace. This will benefit both the employee and employer in many ways, not least showing colleagues that you, as an employer, are being understanding, which in turn can help boost team morale.

Our sister company FusionHR can help review your existing arrangements and help you draft a bereavement policy. Just give one of our team a call on 01924 827869 or email enquiries@fusionbusiness.org.uk


 
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