HRM Five: Grief in the workplace

How to treat bereavement among employees with care and sensitivity.

No matter the size of your company, it’s highly probable that at least one of the employees under its care will experience the loss of a loved one during their tenure. While bereavement is very much a personal matter, it is can also be incredibly overwhelming. Here are some tips for how HR can treat this issue with care and sensitivity.


1. Put guidelines in place

People are often at a loss when it comes to dealing with the grief of their teammates or subordinates – workplace bereavement policies will help provide a framework. These usually include a few days of paid leave, but can also provide for the option of unpaid leave, just in case employees need more time to wrap up the affairs of the deceased relative.


2. Temporarily redistribute workloads

HR will need to work with line managers to understand how the affected employee’s workload can be shared by the team for a short while. Do emphasise that this is not a demotion, but an acknowledgement of grief as a very human reaction to loss.


3. Be compassionate

Policies aren’t enough, of course. During such an emotional period, a personal touch can make all the difference. Organising a card, flowers, or collection for the bereaved employee is a simple way to support them, and acknowledge their difficult experience.


4. Implement sensitivity training

Sensitivity training isn’t just for the benefit of employees who have experienced a recent personal loss – it will also help bosses and colleagues better understand how they should handle the situation. People often end up saying or doing nothing, and this can end up isolating the bereaved worker even more.


5. Check in every so often

Even if an employee is back and working hard within a week of their loss, it’s a good idea for HR and managers to work together to ensure regular check-ins. You don’t want to have situations where a worker is struggling, but trying to hide it, and inadvertently compromising their work. This is also a way to acknowledge the human faces that comprise your workforce. An employee who feels that they’ve been treated well will also be a loyal employee.


Yamini Chinnuswamy offers five important points on everything you wanted to know about HR practices today, but were too afraid to ask. Check out previous editions of HRM Five here.

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