IGA News

Supporting employees through bereavement

Supporting employees through bereavement

30 September 2019

Bereavement. It happens to us all at some point in our lives and it’s one of the hardest things to go through. Losing a loved one can be something we’re prepared for, or it can come as a complete shock. Whatever the situation, anyone who has lost a loved one is in pain and deserves to have the space they need to grieve, away from work.

It’s estimated that 20% of people in the workplace are bereaved. The Loss Foundation says that while grief is a normal human experience, up to 25% of people grieving may experience prolonged, distressing symptoms that affect their productivity and require more support. The charity advises that support should go beyond providing the legal requirements for compassionate leave.

Legally, all employees are entitled to have reasonable (unpaid) time off work to deal with emergencies involving dependents, which includes time off to arrange or attend a funeral.

An employer’s lack of support or compassion at such a challenging time can have a big impact on an employee, which could result in absenteeism or errors being made. This can also have a knock-on effect on business performance and reputation as well as the employee’s loyalty to the company.

With this in mind, what more can employers do to support employees through one of the toughest times of their lives? How do you make sure you say the right things at the right time?

Bereavement will affect every employee at some point in their lives, and therefore every employer, so we’ve put together our advice on how to best support team members who are grieving…

1. Make them aware of relevant company policies

If you have a policy for compassionate leave, let your employee know what it is or where it can be found – usually in their contract or company handbook. If you don’t have a policy, use your discretion and understanding to support your employee. If you don’t already, you may wish to consider offering employees paid compassionate bereavement leave and write it into contracts.

This can be a big support to your employees and is likely to encourage loyalty to your company. A written policy is also helpful for line managers as they don’t have to assess the situation themselves, so ensure they are aware of any policies.

2. Let them know Ben is here for them

Ben exist for those who work, or have worked, in the automotive industry and their family dependents. They not only provide support to people going through grief, but can also help with associated issues such as mental health problems, money worries and substance abuse. You can share Ben’s new resources to help your employees cope with grief and let them know they can contact Ben’s free and confidential helpline and online chat if they need more support.

3. Be compassionate and flexible

Be as compassionate and flexible as you can while your employee is grieving. Imagine how you would feel in their shoes and give them the space they need to cope with their loss. Everyone is different, so what one person needs will vary from what someone else needs. Ask how you can support and make suggestions, such as flexible working hours (as needed), regular check-ins and lightening their workload temporarily. Ultimately, show them through what you say and do that they, as a person, mean more to you and your company than their work.

4. Actively listen

When your employee is talking to you about the situation, listen, keep appropriate eye contact, use movements (like nods of the head) and facial expressions to acknowledge you have heard them. Be sympathetic and understanding. Summarising and paraphrasing is a really good way to acknowledge your understanding of what they are telling you to ensure they feel heard.

5. Understand the impact of grief

It’s important to realise that, even when your employee returns to work, they will still be grieving. There’s no time limit on grief and how each person deals with their loss will vary greatly.

It’s important to understand that your employee is likely to be less productive and motivated than usual, they may be more prone to stress and struggle with concentration and judgement. Give them extra forgiveness for mistakes or not being their usual self during this time. They may also suffer with anxiety, depression and even substance abuse. If you notice signs of any mental health issues or substance abuse, remind your employee that they can seek support from Ben.

6. Keep the lines of communication open

Have regular catch ups to see how they are and see if there’s anything more that you and your company can do to support them. Offer your time, listen and be present with them, you don’t need to offer advice or ‘fix’ anything.

7. Refer them to Ben

Automotive industry employers can use Ben’s fast-track referral process to refer an employee for free and confidential support from Ben. It’s easy to make a request for support – visit the Ben website to find out more.