02 Dec

Unfortunately, grief and loss are inevitable parts of life. Just because they are does not make it any less difficult to process and returning to work when dealing with such situations can be daunting and mentally challenging. Employers should validate affected employees’ individual feelings and circumstances to support them as best as they can upon returning got the workplace. By doing so, employee wellbeing is prioritized which can have future benefits such as staff retention as they are more likely to stay working for a company who they feel cares about them. 

What is grief? 

Grief is the response that people experience due to a loss, in particular death but also loss such as a relationship or job/home too. When grief is discussed, it is commonly associated with the emotional response such as extreme sorrow, despair, and anger etc. but aside from this is can have physical, cognitive, behavioral, and cultural implications and these are often interlinked: one can cause another 

How do people deal with grief and loss? 

There is no right or wrong way to grieve as everyone and every situation is different. However, people tend to experience many of the same symptoms. The NHS have outlined the most common symptoms: 

  • Feeling numb and in shock
  • Extreme sadness and sorrow, with lots of crying
  • Tiredness and exhaustion
  • Oversleeping or lack of sleep
  • Overeating or not eating
  • Anger- either towards the person you’ve lost or the reason for your loss
  • Feeling guilty- for something you did, some thing you said or didn’t say

 Bereavement leave: 

You may have heard of bereavement leave before but what is bereavement? It refers to the state of loss whereas grief refers to the reaction of the loss. Bereavement leave is therefore the time that affected employees can take off to deal with their loss. In the UK, you can take time off for bereavement if a dependent dies (partner, parent, child under 18, someone else who relied upon you) but the law does not state how much time, just what is reasonable. This is due to having to deal with funeral arrangements and lose ends that need typing once someone has died such as finances and estate. If someone dies who is not a dependent, there is no legal obligation to allow for time off however, it is important for employers to be sympathetic towards them non the less, and consider offering time off anyway as grief interferes with performance. For example, they could take time off as unpaid or sick leave. How can you support a grieving employee? Everyone deals with grief and loss differently therefore it is important for employers to work with the affected employees to formulate a subjective plan regarding time off, wellness support and workload to suit them and the business needs. For example, one employee may want a couple of days off but would find it more beneficial to return to work as it helps distract their mind for a few hours. Others may prefer a much longer leave as they are too upset to focus: everyone is different.  It is optimal for businesses to respect the individualistic nature of grief as trying to force someone into going back to work as usual too soon could have an adverse effect on business productivity and could lead to more sick days being taken due to poor wellbeing. We recommend: 

  • Having a conversation with the affected employee regarding their wellbeing and support that can be offered to aid them. Such as counselling or therapy
  • Within this conversation formulate a plan that will be optimal for both them and meeting the business needs. Flexible working arrangements, leave time or a decrease in workload may be things to consider
  • Make sure to regularly check in on these employees and review their circumstances in case they want to make changes to the arrangements such as wanting to return to work fast etc.
  • Although paying employees on bereavement leave is not a statutory requirement it may be beneficial to do so as financial stress on top of grief could be detrimental to their wellbeing which affects business productivity.

 Workplace dos and don’ts after loss: 

After losing someone, emotions tend to be heightened which makes it even more important to be careful in how you approach employees, what you say to them and how you say it. Firstly, not addressing the matter or ignoring it can make the individuals feel awkward, isolated, and alone. We recommend checking up on them to make sure they are okay and that they know they have people around them to support them if needed. Say things such as I’m here for you if you need me and offer help with or more time for work tasks to take pressure off them so they can focus on their wellbeing. Comments such as “they are in a better place” and “it is a natural part of life” are comments to avoid as these can be taken in a bad way and cause an emotional reaction. WE ARE HERE TO HELP! For all other enquiries or questions, contact our team today       

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