Supporting Employees Dealing With Loss
November 5, 2019
When a loved one passes away, life seems to go on hold as we make funeral arrangements, notify friends and family members, and begin our grieving process. But how do you find a balance between life and work during this time? Fortunately, employers can create bereavement leave policies to give employees ample time to attend to both their personal matters and their own grief.
What is Bereavement Leave?
When we experience loss, the most important thing we should be thinking about is how to properly mourn and honor the deceased’s life. Bereavement leave allows employees to focus entirely on their family or personal matters without the added stress of work. Bereavement leave can include a set amount of either paid or unpaid time off following the death of an employee’s loved one. Such agreements can be beneficial for both businesses and staff. They allow employers to show their sympathy and simultaneously manage their business; and they allow employees to grieve, but still meet work obligations in a reasonable timeline.
In the U.S., bereavement policies are created and enforced by employers and companies themselves, since there is no federal law mandating bereavement leave. Most states don’t have requirements either. Thus, it is essential for employers to have a bereavement policy in place for when the inevitable happens. As of 2018, 88% of employers
offered some form of paid bereavement leave. While each company is unique and has different needs, offering three to five days
of bereavement leave is typically the norm for immediate family members. In order to achieve mutual understanding between business owners and their staff, having a transparent and fair policy in place is crucial.
Offering Continued Support
While the days immediately following the death of a loved one can certainly be overwhelming, the grief process can extend for weeks, months, and even years. While bereavement leave is an effective and empathetic way to relieve employees during this critical time, it’s important to offer long-term continued support. Firstly, a genuine phone call, card, or in-person visit (both from managers and colleagues) can go a long way to show that an employee is valued and supported. Employers may also provide practical assistance with any necessary paperwork, such as insurance changes.
If appropriate, businesses can offer flexible scheduling or work from home options. Such agreements can immensely aid employees as they transition through their grief journey, giving them the physical space they may need. Going a step further, businesses may also host grief workshops or retreats to reduce the stigma around bereavement in the workplace. Pairing a bereavement leave policy with a supportive and open-minded culture will be beneficial to both businesses and their valued staff.
If you’re an employer, here are some additional resources for supporting your employees through their grief journey: