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Website URL : http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4976

Acas announces new guidance on managing bereavement at work

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Workplace expert Acas has today published its new guide on managing bereavement in the workplace.

It is estimated that one in ten 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. Nearly nine out ten people believed all employers should have a compassionate employment policy that included paid bereavement leave.

Acas' new guide has been developed in partnership with Cruse Bereavement Care, bereavement leave campaigner Lucy Herd and many other organisations.

Acas Chair Sir Brendan Barber said:

"Grief from the death of a loved one can be an extremely sad and emotional experience for anyone. It can affect people in different ways in the workplace and managers should have the skills needed to handle it.

"Our guide aims to help employers manage this difficult situation with their employee in the immediate aftermath of bereavement as well as longer term.

"It includes advice for managers on how to get the balance right in order to be supportive, compassionate, flexible and practical towards employees who are dealing with bereavement."

Lucy Herd is a bereavement leave campaigner and trainer who tragically lost her son Jack four years ago. Since then, she has worked hard to change the law on how employers treat people who have suffered bereavement and set up the charity Jack's Rainbow three years ago.

Lucy said:

"The new guidance, which I was pleased to contribute to, will help employers create more informed bereavement and compassionate leave policies and to understand better how to support a bereaved person in the workplace."

Debbie Kerslake is the Chief Executive of Cruse Bereavement Care, which works with more than 40,000 bereaved people each year.

Debbie said:

"As the leading bereavement care charity in the UK, we are very aware of the significant impact bereavement can have on the workplace.  This new guide provides extremely helpful and straightforward advice for employers and managers about what to do when an employee is bereaved, from taking the first call, helping the employee return to work to providing ongoing support."

Acas' good practice advice to employers on managing bereavement includes:

  • 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.

Acas' full guidance on Managing bereavement in the workplace is available at www.acas.org.uk/bereavement.

Anyone personally affected by bereavement that needs to speak to someone can call Cruse on 0844 477 9400.

Notes to Editors

  1. A report by the National Council for Palliative Care in partnership with the Dying Matters Coalition and the National Bereavement Alliance called Life after death: six steps to improve support in bereavement found that a third of employees who suffered bereavement in the past five years felt they had not been treated with compassion by their employer; while 87% of those surveyed believed all employers should have a compassionate employment policy, to include paid bereavement leave. The report also found that more than half of the 4,000 people polled would consider leaving their job if their employer did not provide proper support if someone close passed away. The full report can be viewed at www.dyingmatters.org/sites/default/files/Life%20After%20Death%20FINAL%281%29.pdf.
  2. Acas' pdf icon Managing bereavement in the workplace - a good practice guide [184kb] has been developed in partnership with Cruse Bereavement Care, bereavement leave campaigner Lucy Herd, Eversheds LLP, Dying Matters Coalition; as well as CBI, FSB and EEF (and many others). To view the guide, visit www.acas.org.uk/bereavement.
  3. Lucy Herd campaigned for Tom Harris MP and Lord Knight of Weymouth to lobby for an amendment to the Children's and Families Bill. The issue was debated in the Houses of Parliament and the Government directed Acas to develop guidance for employers.
  4. Acas stands for Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. We aim to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. We help with employment relations by supplying up-to-date information, independent advice and high quality training, and working with employers and employees to solve problems and improve performance. Acas is an independent and impartial statutory body governed by a Council made up of members from business, trade unions, academia and the law.
  5. For media interview requests for Lucy Herd, please contact Frances Knox on 07850 470123 / frances@frankly-pr.co.uk.
  6. For media interview requests for a spokesperson from Cruse, please contact Chloe Chesterman on 020 8939 9551 / 07904 662 001 chloe.chesterman@cruse.org.uk.
  7. For media enquiries or interview requests for an Acas spokesperson please contact Shumon Rahman, Senior Media and PR Manager on 0207 210 3688 / srahman@acas.org.uk. For out of hours media enquiries please call the out of hours duty press officer on 020 7210 3600.