Supporting employees coping with bereavement

Grief can make an impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of an individual. According to ACAS, one in ten employees in the UK are likely to be affected by bereavement at any time.


Unfortunately, all individuals will experience bereavement at some time in their lives, but when this happens to someone in your workforce, how do you provide a framework of support?


It is important that employers recognise how much of a life-changing experience bereavement is. Every employee deals with it in different ways, and just because somebody does not perhaps take time off work, that doesn’t mean they are not feeling the effects.



A wide range of emotions may be experienced after a loss. According to the Kübler-Ross model, there are five stages of grief, although these reactions might not occur in a specific order, and can (at times) occur together.


The five stages of grief include:

- Denial, disbelief, numbness

- Anger, blame

- Bargaining

- Depressed mood, sadness, and crying

- Acceptance, coming to terms with a bereavement


Benefits of supporting bereaved employees

A well planned and managed approach to bereavement at the workplace will not only help bereaved employees to cope better with their loss, but it will also help:

- Support employees returning to work

- Reduce absenteeism and sick leave

- Avoid staff turnover

- Reduce the impact on co-workers

- Strengthen workplace culture and team morale


Best practice guidelines

It is generally recognised as good practice for an employer to build an entitlement to bereavement leave into their employees’ terms and conditions – but flexibility should be incorporated to consider specific circumstances and whether any time off will be paid.


By its very nature, the loss of someone close can be impossible to predict, so you need to consider that it may be difficult for an employee to give any kind of notice for a bereavement leave request.


With such a sensitive subject, it’s wise to tread carefully, so you should consider the following:


Returning back to work – A sympathetic approach will help individuals make the transition back to work an easier one, so ensure good communication and use your discretion.

Phased returns – This may be helpful in some circumstances, and may even be recommended by their GP if they’ve been given a sick note.

Flexible working requests – Expect these if an employee’s partner has died, leaving them with sole responsibility for raising their children, or if the employee has lost a sibling, leaving them with sole responsibility for caring for ill or aging parents.


In the case of a death of a member of staff, organisations will need to take a wider approach to ensure that colleagues are supported.


In situations where a death occurs in the workplace, support from trauma specialists may be required. These specialists can provide individual and group support on site within 24-48 hours of the incident, and signpost staff to structured counselling services for ongoing support.


Bereavement in the workplace can be a challenge to manage and can cause many disruptions to your workforce. For example, you may find that their workplace performance has been negativity affected, and that staff members may need to take compassionate leave from work, or that they may be unable to perform certain roles.


However, a compassionate and supportive approach from organisations can demonstrate that they are committed to their staff and values its workforce.


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

0844 892 2493.

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