good life, good death, good grief

Scottish Bereavement Friendly Workplaces Toolkit

Best practice for employers

What is best practice for employers?

Good workplace bereavement practice does not stop at the legal minimum. Employers should also look to put in place other mechanisms appropriate to their workplace.

Flexible working can be one useful way to introduce a bereaved person back into the workplace or to enable them to adjust to changes that can be brought about by bereavement.

Employers should also take care to create an open and supportive environment so that bereaved employees who want to talk to someone, can do. Being ignored out of discomfort or not having their bereavement acknowledged are two ways in which bereaved people are made to feel worse in the workplace. See our section about Caring for Staff for ways to avoid this.

However, it is also important that employers check first with the employee whether they wish the reason for their absence to be shared with colleagues and, if they do, how they want that to be communicated. Not everyone does wish to be so open about bereavements.

The nature of some jobs means that the bereaved member of staff may be coming back to work to deal with the bereavement of others, such as at an insurance company. There may be other triggering factors in the workplace. For example, after the loss of a baby, it may be difficult for the bereaved to meet colleagues who are pregnant (see case studies). Please be sensitive to these issues and respond accordingly.

The documents below offer employers further guidance on how to best handle bereavement in the workplace:

Managing bereavement in the workplace [pdf] (ACAS)
Grief at Work - Developing a bereavement policy [pdf] (Breffni McGuinness / Irish Hospice Foundation, 2007)

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