What does a progressive bereavement policy look like?
Following my blog post on why I think bereavement policies are flawed, we have been asked what a good bereavement policy would look like.
We have been surprised by how many organisations don’t have a specific bereavement policy. They may have reference to bereavement in their compassionate leave policy, if they have one. Many won’t have reviewed their policy for a while. Given bereavement affects so many people each year, it’s vital to consider the impact on your workforce and provide clear guidance to staff.
Below are some pointers to get people started. You need to think about what suits your organisation and what would work best for it, to reflect the culture and ethos towards employee well-being.
- It should, regardless of the fact that grief cannot possibly be contained within a short period of time, start with a clear statement of how much paid leave an individual can have.
This gives individuals, line managers and HR staff clear guidance at a time when individuals need it most.
- If there is any differentiation associated with the relationship to the deceased, e.g. if there is more time for the loss of a child or close family members, it should clearly state what the time periods are. It should take into consideration close relationships outside the immediate family, such as friendships and parental substitutes, etc.
- It should specify what will happen after the period of paid leave is over. Decisions related to extended leave should be made by the line manager AND an HR team member to ensure consistency across the business. The assessment should be made against a ‘framework’ of factors such as the circumstances of the bereavement and whether the individual has ‘inherited’ additional care duties.
- If the additional leave has to be recorded as sick leave, the reason should be classified as ‘Bereavement’ and not automatically contribute to any absence triggers and subsequent capability reviews.
- It should take into account any religious requirements to ensure it doesn’t discriminate on religious grounds.
- It should factor in practicalities. A death has to be registered in 5 days, except where there’s a need for a coroner’s report. If a coroner needs to be involved, this will delay when the death can be registered and when the funeral can take place. A policy, therefore, needs to be clear whether the initial period of leave is inclusive or whether further days will be granted for registering the death, and the funeral, if necessary.
- It should factor in compassionate leave for situations where the employees loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, e.g. Facebook allow the individual up to six weeks paid leave to care for a sick relative.
- It should not sit in isolation. HR teams should ensure that the individual has access to a range of support by highlighting what is available through the organisation, including through Employee Assisted Programmes. Having a directory of organisations providing support to the bereaved should also be considered.
We can work with your HR team to raise their awareness of the issues surrounding grief and bereavement in the workplace, develop a corporate understanding of what approach they want to model and then do the practical work of developing policies and procedures, assuring that they align with the rest of your policy handbook and your day to day practice.