When an employee suffers a death in the family, most employers offer some sort of bereavement leave, but it’s often informal. How employers respond during this time of need says a lot about how much they value their workers—and how much they recognize that employees’ aren’t just cogs in the workplace machine.
Handle bereavement well and your staff will repay you in loyalty. Handle it poorly and work will suffer and you could lose valuable workers.
According to the HR consulting firm Kushner & Co., most employers provide three to five days off—often paid—for employees to grieve the loss of a parent, spouse or child.
Bereavement leave of one to three days is typical for employees who have lost a sibling or an extended family member like a grandparent, aunt or uncle.
Policy matters aside, it’s important to show genuine compassion for a bereaved employee. Some ideas:
- Designate a manager to attend funeral or memorial services. The company also might send flowers or make a donation to a charity in the name of the deceased.
- With the permission of the em-ployee who has suffered the loss, let other workers know what has happened. Employees often will want to attend the funeral, send flowers, make donations or send notes of sympathy.
- Whatever you do to recognize the loss of one employee, do it for all. It’s important to avoid any appearance of discrimination or favoritism. Demonstrate the company’s concern for every bereaved employee in the same way.
- When the bereaved employee returns to work, be prepared to negotiate flexible expectations that will help ease the worker back into a normal routine. Expect bouts of sadness and distraction. Offer the option to telework or work flexible hours or part time until he or she feels up to coming back full time.
- Consider keeping a grief counselor on call or training an employee to serve in that role so someone familiar will be available to help an employee through a rough patch.
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