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Compassion Should not be a Dying Art

17 October 2014 | Updated 01 January 1970
 

New guidance on managing bereavement at work has been published to help employers be more sensitive of grieving staff

 

It is estimated that one in 10 people is directly affected by bereavement and research has found that a third of employees who had suffered bereavement in the past five years felt that they had not been treated with compassion by their employer.

It has led to workplace expert, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), publishing its new guide on managing bereavement in the workplace. The guide has been developed in partnership with Cruse Bereavement Care, bereavement leave campaigner Lucy Herd and many other organisations.

"Grief from the death of a loved one can be an extremely sad and emotional experience for anyone,” explained Sir Brendan Barber, Chair, ACAS. “It can affect people in different ways in the workplace and managers should have the skills needed to handle it.”

The recommendations include:

Grief does not have predicted stages and phases. Everyone reacts differently to bereavement and this should be understood and respected by both employers and colleagues.

Employers can prepare for managing bereavement in the workplace by having a clear policy on it and training managers, HR teams and selected staff to have compassionate and effective conversations with bereaved colleagues. It is good practice to involve trade unions or staff representative in developing a bereavement policy.

A calm empathetic approach in all communications from managers will ensure employees feel supported and minimise their anxiety about returning to work.

Some employees may feel able to return to work very swiftly, whilst others may need more time. The relationship with the person who died and the circumstances of the death will all have an impact on the employee, particularly if the death was sudden or traumatic.

It is often difficult for bereaved employees to judge how they will feel in the workplace and a swift return to work does not necessarily mean that an employee will not need support.

There are likely to be ups and downs as a person suffering from grief adjusts to life without the person they lost. The full emotional impact of the bereavement may not be felt for some time after a death.

Employers need to be mindful of the family unit of the bereaved and appreciate that in many cases, a flexible approach such as offering part-time hours or flexible working is more likely to support and retain the employee and minimise sick days as they negotiate new or increased caring responsibilities. For more information see flexible working.

For many, the advice would appear to be obvious and taken for granted as part of a responsible management attitude but ACAS has felt it necessary to outline clearly the approach to staff and grieving at the loss of a loved one.

ACAS' full guidance on managing bereavement in the workplace is available at: www.acas.org.uk/bereavement

 

Pictured: Helping staff at a time of bereavement should be a core aim of management, according to ACAS

Article written by Cathryn Ellis | Published 17 October 2014

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