How to support a bereaved employee

National Grief Awareness Week 2nd - 8th December 2019

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Health Assured team

16 November 2019

Research conducted by Atomik on behalf of Co-op Funeral care has found that 4 in 10 bereaved adults feel isolated when back at work.


Alarmingly, the study also found that more than half (58%) of adults feel pressured to return to work after losing a loved one.


In the first week of December, we acknowledge National Grief Awareness Week - a wellbeing campaign that focuses on promoting healthy relationships with grief and raising awareness of supportive practises.


With over 600,000 deaths registered every year in the UK and Ireland, it’s certain that we will all sadly experience loss over the course of our lifetime. During such times, we would hope to receive support from those around us, such as our friends, family and colleagues.


Why is bereavement support important?

As an employer, it is vital that you put in place a framework of support for employees who have experienced a bereavement. Otherwise, your organisation will be vulnerable to high absence rates, low morale, a drop in productivity and low retention of your best talent.


In acknowledgment of NGAW 2019, we have listed several tips on how to effectively and compassionately support your team members after experiencing a bereavement.


Education & training

Employers and managers need to be aware of the impact of bereavement on their employees and put policies and support processes in place, starting with training sessions for managers. Being able to offer practical support for employees in confidence, communicating effectively and with compassion should be covered in these sessions.


Informing colleagues

It’s important to ask the bereaved employee what they would like their colleagues to be told and whether they’re happy for colleagues to contact them to send condolences. If unsure, it’s best to explain their absence as due to ‘personal reasons’.


Returning to work

Arrange a visit to the workplace or an informal catch-up with the individual to help reduce any anxiety prior to their return to work. After their return, schedule regular reviews to discuss any adjustments that they need to enable them to remain well and in work.


Be flexible

When someone is bereaved, they are likely to be preoccupied and lack concentration and therefore may be unable to work to their usual capacity. Offer flexible working hours or shift patterns to help ease them back into their normal working routine. For example, short breaks staggered throughout the day or allowing more access to their mobile phone to answer calls.


Proactive planning

During your interaction with the bereaved team member, make a note of any sensitive dates such as anniversaries, birthdays or special holidays. Personally checking in with them on these dates in the future, will have a positive effect on their mental health.


When employees receive sensitive and appropriate bereavement support, not only will they benefit from the support you offer, but the organisation will too, including; a strong sense of goodwill towards the organisation with increased loyalty and engagement from your staff.


However, it’s important for organisations and managers to recognise that employees respond to loss in different ways and any bereavement support you wish to provide should be executed in a manner that is appropriate for each individual.



If you would like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on:

UK: 0844 892 2493

ROI: 01 886 0324

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