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Workplace Bereavement Policy

Following the sad passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II, we thought it prudent to take a look at the need for workplace bereavement policies for employers and how to support bereaved employees in the workplace following the death of a loved one.

A workplace bereavement policy can help you support grieving employees through a very difficult time and cope with grief in the workplace.

Employees who have suffered a death in their family will need time to arrange the funeral and adapt to life after the loss of their loved one. They will also need time to grieve. Granting these employees bereavement leave, sometimes called compassionate leave or funeral leave, for at least a few days can be very important at this time. Most companies include 3-5 days of bereavement leave with pay in their contracts.

What should you include in your workplace bereavement policy?

The specific details of a bereavement policy depends on its size and culture, but a good one should be compassionate, flexible and clearly explained to employees. Some companies adopt a fixed-day policy for paid bereavement leave, while others may scale paid days off according to the relationship the employee had with the person who has died. It’s widely recommended that a bereavement policy should include at least a few days of paid leave. For many bereaved people the days and weeks after the funeral is a time when they begin to fully register their loss and grief.
If extended paid leave is not feasible within your company’s bereavement policy, grieving employees should be able to choose whether to take additional time from their Paid Time Off (PTO), or unpaid leave. Be open to discussing how reduced hours or more flexible shifts could support them as they cope with their grief in the workplace.

Personal circumstances can vary – an employee grieving the death of their partner may need additional time to care for children, for instance – while someone else might find it difficult to
cope with the emotional impact of grief.

It’s good practice to have a bereavement policy in place so all employees are aware of their entitlement to paid and unpaid days off. Be prepared to be flexible, in order to accommodate circumstances on a case-by-case basis.