In Australia, when a member of an employee’s immediate family or household dies, employees (including casual employees) are entitled to 2 days compassionate leave (also known as bereavement leave). But is it enough? Do we need more time?
According to Peter Erceg, Founder of eziFunerals, when someone close to to you dies, people need more than two days to deal with their grief, plan a funeral and say goodbye to someone very close. It can have a significant and negative impact on their work and well being. Despite this, a significant proportion of employers are making this tough time even harder when they really should be offering support to help staff through the grieving process.
In a recent court case, a worker was allegedly threatened with the sack after asking for compassionate leave to attend his father-in-law’s funeral. ‘In a compassionate society we should allow our bereaved to be able to focus on grieving, without the fear of their job not being there when they are ready to go back to work’, Erceg says.
Employers need to raise their game and take the issue seriously. In a recent study – nearly a third of employees say they would consider resigning if their employer was unsympathetic following a bereavement. The research also found that almost 20 per cent of employees have witnessed unsympathetic behaviour from a boss, either to themselves or a colleague.
The following strategy has been developed for employers to support employees deal with grief and transition back to work following the death of an immediate family member.
Develop an effective bereavement policy
Employees are likely to be more productive and loyal to a company that recognises they may need extra support during times of bereavement, whether this means offering dedicated bereavement counselling as part of a benefits package, or simply allowing for increased workplace flexibility.
Employers are encouraged to develop an effective bereavement policy which should include the following supports for your employees.
Offer Funeral Planning Assistance:
Coping with a loss and planning a funeral is one of the most difficult things we will ever be asked to do. Partner with eziFunerals to deliver a Funeral Planning Assistance program, as an employee benefit.
Provide Paid leave:
Figure out how much paid leave you can offer. A full week is a realistic choice. Decide whether the leave can be modified in specific situations, such as an employee needing to travel to a funeral. Take into account the relationship of the deceased to the bereaved employee. Recognise that the death of a loved one outside the immediate family may be equally upsetting, e.g. the loss of a grandparent. Respect cultural differences. Depending on the culture, the traditions around mourning (the public expression of grief) may take more time.
Offer Extended Unpaid leave:
Provide job guarantees for employees who take an extended leave.
Allow Vacation leave:
Make it easy for grieving employees to add vacation leave to their bereavement leave. Allow coworkers to give vacation days to bereaved colleagues.
Offer an emergency loan program:
Offer no cost loans to employees for death related expenses, such as travel or funerals.
Offer Grief counselling:
Offer grief counselling through an employee assistance program or a community organisation, such as a hospice.
Ensure Equitable and flexible treatment:
Ensure your bereavement policy allows for each employee’s needs and treats all employees fairly.
Lead by example and acknowledge grief:
As an employer or supervisor, you set the tone. Your response will make a lasting impression not only on bereaved employees but also on their co-workers. The compassion and respect you offer will be returned in the form of employee loyalty and retention.
Support grieving employees while they are on leave:
Offer your sympathy and ask if there is anything you can do to help. Explain your organisation’s bereavement policy, if there is one.
Stay in touch:
Assure employees that everything is all right at work and that their work is being looked after. Keep them in the loop if it seems appropriate but don’t overwhelm them with details. Help employees access grief counselling through an employee assistance program or community agency. Ask what the employee would like you to say to co-workers about the loss.
Engage with other staff, if appropriate:
Include a grief counsellor who can answer questions and provide support. Address any concerns staff may have, such as how to cover a bereaved co-worker’s duties.
Continue your support after employees return to work:
Be patient. Grief has no timeline and people grieve in their own way. Offer flexible work arrangements, such as reduced hours, fewer duties, job sharing, telecommuting or time off when necessary. Ease up on deadlines where possible or bring in extra help. Ensure supervisors understand that bereaved employees may have trouble coping and may need to leave the workplace on short notice. Have supervisors stay in close contact with them, at least for the first few days after their return to work. Meet regularly with bereaved employees (and their supervisor, if applicable) to be sure they are getting the support they need. Watch for signs that their grief has become self-destructive, such as physical changes, signs of substance abuse, isolation or feelings they can’t manage. Step in to offer counselling or other support as appropriate. Provide a quiet place where all staff can go to distress and reg energise during the work day.
Help co-workers offer support:
Allow coworkers time off to attend the funeral or memorial service, if appropriate. Offer grief support training to supervisors and staff.
How can eziFunerals can help your employees
eziFunerals understands the heavy burden on employees with the loss of a loved one and end of life decisions. That is why we have developed Australia’s first nationwide funeral planning service and Cradle2grave® coverage for valued employees.
If you are an employer of choice or corporate benefits manager and would like to learn more about eziFunerals an employee benefit, please contact eziFunerals for more information.
eziFunerals supports individuals and families cope with end of life decisions, death and funerals. We are an independent, Australian-owned and operated company, and are not a subsidiary of any other corporation. We are not part of any other funeral company. Founded by consumers frustrated by how difficult it was to get independent information, eziFunerals supports consumers plan a funeral, compare prices and select the right funeral director anywhere, anytime.