Bereaved workers 'need more support', charity says

A woman leans on a desk with her head in her hands The report calls on the government to consider statutory bereavement leave

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Bereaved people are being "failed" by the lack of support they get at work, a charity has said.

A National Council for Palliative Care report says the government should look into the "feasibility" of statutory leave from work after a loved one dies.

And it calls on all employers to tell workers what help they are entitled to.

A survey commissioned by the charity found 32% of people bereaved in the last five years felt their employer did not treat them with compassion.

The report, produced in partnership with the Dying Matters Coalition, says 87% of people surveyed felt all employers should have a "compassionate employment policy" including paid bereavement leave, flexible working and other support.

Email from HR

In the survey, carried out by ComRes, 56% said they would consider resigning if their employer did not provide proper support if someone close to them died.

Start Quote

When you lose someone you really need support and understanding”

End Quote Linda Sewell

Elaine resigned from a large accountancy firm after her husband died suddenly in 2007.

"I was given five days off and then took some holiday," she told BBC News.

"Because it was a sudden death there was lots to go through. I had to identify his body, there was a post mortem and a funeral to arrange so five days was never going to be enough."

After less than six months back at work she says received an email from the firm's HR department suggesting she "should be able to put it behind" her and "get back to some work at the pace we expect".

There is currently no statutory paid bereavement leave, although workers have the right to "reasonable" unpaid time off to deal with practicalities such as organising a funeral.

"The costs of bereavement are too great to ignore, both for individuals and for society," said Eve Richardson, chief executive of the National Council for Palliative Care, which is an umbrella charity for all those involved in palliative, end of life and hospice care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"Employers have an important role to play by being compassionate and having a bereavement policy in place.

"It is also often the little things that matter and help make a difference, such as kind words from a manager or a card to say we are thinking of you."

'Stripped confidence'

The report also calls for improved training for all staff who come into regular contact with recently bereaved people, and a national review of the impact of welfare reforms on bereaved people.

Linda Sewell, a supporter of the bereavement charity Jack's Rainbow, resigned from her job at an independent school when her 19-year-old son died while travelling in 2008.

She said: "My employer stopped paying me - it stripped away my self-confidence. When you lose someone you really need support and understanding."

Lucy Herd, who founded the charity after her young son died in August 2010 has been campaigning for statutory bereavement leave.

"It's completely unrealistic to expect people who have lost someone close to them to immediately go back to work and carry on as normal," she said.

But Petra Wilton, from the Chartered Management Institute, said: "A one-size-fits-all statutory entitlement is not the solution.

"Being flexible and understanding what an employee is experiencing can help managers find a mutual agreement that meets the needs of both the employee and the employer."

She added: "Employers do need to think about what policies they have in place and whether their managers have the skills needed to handle sensitive conversations and to offer greater flexibility, which can make a huge difference at a time of distress."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    I will rephrase omitting the nasty rude word I implied in my earlier post:

    Reading some of these comments, there are some disturbingly hard-hearted people on this site.

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    @ 426. Sally the Rothbardian

    Like everyone here I am all too familiar with your singular view. You have given it to everyone on every subject. You use a lot of words but articulate very little. If I missed a direct question I do apologise, my bad. In this discussion I am very much on the side of the individual who suffers a bereavement. The cornerstone of liberty is freedom to be yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    The trouble is whatever happens it's open to abuse. An unscrupulous employer under the current regime can refuse to pay anything and use a degradation in performance as an excuse to get rid of someone. If statutory leave is introduced you can be sure it will be abused by the lazy who "feel so lost" without the distant aunt they never cared about but figured they can claim a few free days off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    Employers are already faced with excess costs (e.g. maternity leave) and unpaid leave requests that interrupt business. Can we seriously support paid bereavement time off? After all, bereavement is nothing new.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    An organisations greatest asset is its work force and looking after it will improve every aspect of the organisations. So many employers now do not recognise that. When my wife died my organisation looked after me. I am grateful to them. How many other employees who have been bereaved will have to rely on luck that they have a good employer. It should not come down to luck.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    I am 18, cared for my gran, and me and my family have been recently asked to prepare funeral arrangements, and i am worried how my workplace shall respond when eventually the time comes, after hearing such negative things about the lack of time and the unemphatic and blunt response given by workplaces.

  • Comment number 427.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 426.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    A 'charity' says........?

    A non story really...HYS has now become pointless as far as debate goes. I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to ask someone the question "do you every shut up?" but that would be impolite & we just keep using the minus sign......but to no avail.

    Suffering the loss of someone you love is the most difficult reality to face.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    404.Bart Littlebird
    19 Minutes ago
    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

    Oh really?? Oh get a grip moderators. I did blank out the rude word. Pfft

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    People are just walking financial units. It's a fact. You are worth to society what your salary is.

    It is in the employers' interests to give you time off to bereave, and holidays, and weekends only to maximise your efficiency.

    Employers should just provide you with your employment rights. If they want to do more, to make you feel 'valued', that's up to them, but they shouldn't be expected to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    You used the word "rights" - a word with several meanings, and seemed surprised that people hadn't realised you were specifically referring to "natural rights". Given the topic was law, most people would assume you meant legal rights.
    Rather than simply explaining yourself, you threw in the "hasn't everyone read..." comment to try to make the error everyone else's, not yours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    412 Emperor Wibble
    As long as she doesn't start telling us to cultivate our gardens, I don't care what she says!

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    "395.Sally the Rothbardian
    Many are having trouble grasping "natural rights". Isn't John Locke on everyone's reading list?"

    Is Locke the last word? Rights are what we collectively agree we will grant one another, respect and enforce. The constitutional rights of freed slaves in the USA were hypothetical only since they were not uniformly respected and enforced until 100 years later.

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    I thought this was a discussion/debate about bereavement and all I want to add is a "Now, Now Children" in a headmasterly voice. Followed, in the same headmasterly voice, "They know who they are"!

    And, no, I don't to hear "It wasn't me, Sir, it was [insert name here]".

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    5 days is nowhere near enough time and I know I certainly couldn't face work again after such a short time. I also know that I would happily pick up the tasks of a colleague should such a terrible event befall them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    That's great about your CV. I didn't assume everyone hasn't read Locke, merely those who appear ignorant of Natural Rights makes, which you appear to be. Your accusation of my arrogance absurd.

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    411.Milo Minderbinder
    'The main problem is with employers that willfully disregard such rights, but in the end who'd want to work for them so they'll go under.'

    The problem may be with a manager who is not clued up. But in the current climate people may cling onto a job despite poor treatment and others may work for years before misfortune exposes the boss's attitude.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    @ 408. Sally the Rothbardian

    Personally sally my problem with you is that your ego writes your posts. Your minority view is a minority of one but you're never willing to concede your life philosophy is not one that can be applied universally on all occasions. For these reasons you become a figure of ridicule. Your the japanese soldier that doesn't know the war is long over and your side lost.

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    The only evidence on here to support the claim that "Sally" is a lawyer is that they continually ask questions of the nature "have you stopped beating your wife" and continuing to repeat the question until they get a Yes or No answer. Any attempt to get them to answer a question gets the response "answer my question first".


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