When you see it in black and white it’s shocking, but the reality is that whenever we are apart, there is never really any guarantee that we are going to see our loved ones alive again. It’s a cruel reminder perhaps of our own mortality and the sudden change associated with losing someone close.
There will always be times when people within your business are affected directly, or indirectly by the loss of someone they have loved or known who has now died. Whether that is the death of a colleague, member of the family, close friend or even a pet, there is bound be a consequential impact on the person affected. In whatever situation the incident has happened, there will undoubtedly be a ripple effect on the other people around them in the workplace.
Currently there is no legislation in the UK or the Isle of Man which makes it mandatory for employers to grant time off, with or without pay for bereavement. The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 which came into force in UK law in April 2020, will allow for at least two week’s paid parental bereavement leave in the event of loss of a child under the age of 18, but we know that the impact is far more reaching than the death of a child.
Dealing with the Impact
Some employers will have a prescriptive policy in place, which allows for a certain amount of time off to be taken. There is a qualifying criterion, which is calculated dependent upon the relationship of the employee to the deceased. In reality however, each case must be viewed on its own merits and measured in line with a person’s resilience and reaction to the circumstances of the bereavement. The policy can often become irrelevant, as a consequence of the individual’s preferences and personal situation. In the case of the death of one of your employees, there can be wide reaching effects across the whole organisation and practical considerations need to be addressed in relation to the subsequent loss of productivity.
In these days of blended families and more complex relationships, the criteria can be too rigid and the amount of prescribed time be too limiting. A lot of policies don’t consider step families, life partners or friends and do not take into account the personal reactions to loss. Lately the question of time being allowed for the loss of pets is being discussed in a lot of workplaces and again something for consideration.
What do I Say?
Very often, Managers and colleagues avoid conversations about grief, for fear of saying the wrong thing or simply the fact that they don’t know what to say. How often have you just said, “sorry for your loss” and never followed up how your friend or colleague is feeling over time.
Experiencing grief is totally personal and no two people respond in the same way. There is a lot of support available for bereavement and it’s advisable to make sure your employee has the opportunity to speak to someone external, who is an experienced grief counsellor.
A good grief counsellor can also help to advise and train colleagues and managers on how best to support the employee through what is an extremely traumatic and shifting time.