New programme to help employers support staff through bereavement

15 April 2016
An innovative scheme is encouraging employers to take bereavement more seriously. The Compassionate Employers programme allows companies and organisations to gain a better understanding of how bereavement among staff can have long-lasting effects on productivity, morale and absenteeism, and how to introduce policies and good practice to support staff through loss.

Glenis Freeman of the National Council for Palliative Care, lead body of Dying Matters, led the development of the programme with a group of bereavement care experts.

She said: "Many employers allow compassionate leave for a funeral, but fail to spot that the effects of bereavement can last for months or years. Staff may be under-performing for a long time after losing a loved one, with colleagues and managers aware something is wrong but unable to say the right thing."

The programme provides workshops and training for companies, backed up with printed materials and on-going support through the new website. Organisations completing the programme who match the criteria for being recognised as a Compassionate Employer will be able to use the programme’s logo to show their ongoing commitment to supporting their staff leading up to and following a bereavement.

Training is provided to help managers and work colleagues support a member of staff in dealing with the death of a loved one. It includes the increasingly common situation of "pre-bereavement", where someone has to cope when a loved one has received a terminal diagnosis, as well as support required in the workplace when a work colleague dies. It recognises that different people react to loss in different ways, and also considers different cultural and religious responses to death. 

The Compassionate Employer programme was resource developed as a response to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) publication ‘Managing bereavement in the workplace – a good practice guide’ launched in September 2014. Research by NCPC from 2015 found that 56% of people would consider leaving their job if their employer did not provide proper bereavement support, and 32% of those bereaved in the last five years said they were not treated compassionately by their employer at the time. 

Glenis said: "We often spend as much time with work colleagues as we do with our families, yet often don’t know what to say when someone at work is grieving. A few simple words can make a huge difference. Managers also need to know that people may seem to have got over a loss, but be hurting again months later.

"The right response can help people get back to doing their best work again more quickly, help keep staff and stop under-performance affecting a whole team."


Compassionate employers website:

News: Bereaved people failed by employers

Report: Life after death: six steps to improve support in bereavement

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