Managing employee bereavement

Managing bereavement and returning to work


Following the first days of bereavement, it is important to start a dialogue which will allow an open discussion around how the employee is coping.

The discussion could also cover your policy on bereavement if you have one, when the employee feels they might be ready to return to work and any adjustments that might help with this.

Each bereavement is different - some employees may feel able to return to work very swiftly, whilst others may need more time.

Carrying out regular reviews will allow you both to discuss and agree any strategies or adjustments which may be needed to enable them to return to work. This might lead to a temporary or long-term change in, for example, hours or responsibilities.

If your business does not have an internal employee assistance programme, you should consider referring them to an external organisation for bereavement counselling.

Cruse Bereavement Care can offer support, advice and information, both to those directly affected by bereavement and to those who encounter bereaved people in the workplace.

Manage sensitive situations

Special or significant days, such as an inquest or anniversary of the death, can also be particularly difficult. Sensitivity around these times, for example if the employee requests specific days off, will help them to manage their grief.

Over the course of a year, a bereaved employee may breach company sickness limits. You should consider whether it is appropriate to exclude some or all of the time off associated with the bereavement.

Similarly, it would be good practice to take the bereavement into account should there be an impact on any aspect of the employee's work or performance.

Bereavement can also cause changes in the personal and financial circumstances of an employee eg if they become responsible for raising their children as a single parent.

You should be mindful of an individual's situation and be aware that a flexible approach is most likely to support and retain the employee and minimise sick days.

Read more on flexible working: the law and best practice.