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Coping With Grief: Would Your Employer Be Compassionate?

Coping with bereavement is perhaps one the most challenging and painful period of anyone’s life. Grief is an overwhelming emotion and the sorrow of losing a loved one can interfere with every aspect of your life; including your working life. For some employees, juggling work with the complex emotions of grief is a little easier with the help and support of their employer.

Employees who are offered counseling, compassionate leave or a combination of both these face little or no retribution for their absence in the workplace or lack of motivation/concentration due their very personal circumstances. However, for other employees there is no support from their employer at all, so they find themselves struggling professionally as well as personally because of the grief they are going through.

Failure to Support the Bereaved

ComRes has polled 4,038 UK adults on behalf of the National Council for Palliative Care and Dying Matters to explore how employees feel they are treated in the workplace during and after bereavement. This thought provoking survey is included in the report Life After Death which deals with the very sensitive issue of bereavement. Here are a few of the report’s key findings:

  • 81% of surveyors think that bereaved employees should be entitled to mandatory paid bereavement leave.
  • 56% of surveyors stated that they would be prompted to seek alternative employment if they were not offered suitable support during their bereavement.
  • 32% of surveyors who were bereaved within the last five years stated that they received little or no support from their employer.
  • 82% of surveyors believe that paid bereavement leave would be in employers’ best interest for the sake of maintaining a healthy workforce.
  • 87% of surveyors think that all employers should have bereavement support of some kind for their employees.

The report suggests that there should be a national review of how employers deal with bereaved employees. Currently there are no strong policies or guidelines in place that dictate to employers about how long bereavement leave should last and whether or not employees should still be paid during bereaved related absences. The report also acknowledges that employees aren’t necessarily entitled to paid bereavement leave and that employers do have the right to offer unpaid leave to employees who are bereaved.

Taking Action to Support Employees

Now with all that in mind, employers appear to have the last and final word when it comes to how employees are treated when they experience a loss in their lives. Everyone deals with grief differently which means that there is no right or wrong way to grieve, but there is a correct way to deal with grieving employees.

This survey has drawn some much needed attention to the fact that bereavement can strike any employee at any time. There is no real way to predict how an employee will react to the death of a loved one, therefore just as this report pin points, the way employers deal with providing support for employees needs to be looked at closely. The issues that this survey has raised are difficult to argue with which is why more emphasis should be placed on health and wellness programs/practises in the workplace. Employees who do not receive the support they need feel under-valued and victimized in the workplace which should be something that no employer wants for their staff.


Image: istock


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