Businesses struggle to deal with staff bereavement

Nearly half of HR departments admit they do not have agreed policies in place to deal with the death of an employee.

Around a third of HR departments have had to provide bereavement support to staff who have experienced the loss of a family member in the past two years

A third of HR departments have provided bereavement support to staff who have experienced the loss of a family member in the past two years

Businesses are not prepared to deal with the impact of staff bereavement and terminal illnesses in the workplace, new research from MetLife Employee Benefits shows.

The MetLife study finds nearly half (45 per cent) of HR departments do not have agreed policies in place to cope with the aftermath of the death of an employee and two-thirds (64 per cent) do not have agreed procedures for supporting staff who are diagnosed with a terminal illness.

The need to address the issue of bereavement in the workplace is underlined by the research – around 13 per cent of HR departments have had to endure the sad misfortune of managing in the workplace following the death of an employee in the past two years.

In addition, nearly one in three (31 per cent) have had to provide bereavement support to a member of staff during the past two years after they suffered a death in the family.

Employees are entitled to be permitted by their employer to take a reasonable amount of time off during the employee’s working hours in order to take any action which is necessary in consequence of the death of a dependant (spouse, child or parent and includes someone who relies on the employee for the provision of care).

MetLife research shows HR departments are generally sympathetic to supporting bereaved members of staff, 92 per cent say they offer flexible working to staff while 24 per cent provide access to bereavement helplines through their employee benefits provider and 13 per cent offer face-to-face counselling.

However there is an acceptance that more needs to be done – two out of five HR departments say they are considering providing training for line managers to help them support staff while a third say they will consider introducing specialist support services.

Tom Gaynor, employee benefits director at MetLife UK says, ‘Bereavement is sadly something which will affect most employees and companies need to have agreed procedures in place to ensure staff and their families have support when they need it.

‘Companies clearly want to be supportive and sympathetic but it is surprising that so many do not have clear policies and procedures in place for bereavement in the workplace. HR departments recognise it is an issue but need support in addressing it.’

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