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Bereavement support should be a duty of care not an option

  • Blog
  • 14 November 2018

Silhouette of woman with hand on forehead

At any time, one in 10 employees are likely to be affected [1] by losing a loved one, yet research [2] has found that bereaved people are being failed by a lack of support in the workplace. It found that:

  • 4 in 10 bereaved adults feel isolated when back at work
  • More than half (58%) of UK adults feel pressured to return to work after losing a loved one
  • 30% felt they needed more than two weeks off before they were truly ready to come back


Employers should be aware of the impact of bereavement on their employees and put policies and support processes in place to include training for managers. Being able to respond to employees in confidence, communicating effectively and with compassion makes a huge difference.

Tips for an employer to consider are:

  • Talk to your employee and acknowledge their loss sensitively and with compassion
  • Ask your employee what they would like their colleagues to be told and what contact they would like
  • Everyone is different, never assume, ask them what they need and what might help
  • Arrange a prior informal visit to the workplace to help reduce anxiety around seeing the team on their first day back at work.
  • Offer flexible working hours or a different working pattern for the first few weeks or months to ease the employee back into their normal work routine, they may need to take longer breaks or make more personal calls than usual.
  • Regular reviews should be carried out with bereaved employees to be supportive and discuss any adjustments that may be needed to enable them to remain well and in work
  • When someone is bereaved they are likely to be preoccupied and lack concentration therefore may be unable to work to their usual capacity, so be supportive and make allowances
  • Be sensitive to particular times of year, such as anniversaries, birthdays and Christmas

Failure to consider these points can lead to increased sickness absence, reduced motivation, productivity, and an increase in work-place stress.

External support

Whilst some employers find themselves positioned to provide workplace support following bereavement, employees find the opportunity to get confidential help from a service external to their employer invaluable.

There is no set way to grieve, to work best, any support needs to be tailored to the individual and their specific circumstances. Continuity and content of support is very important, particularly bearing in mind the long-term and changing nature of grief

External support services are available directly or can be offered as an added-value service by employee assistance programmes, protection insurance (income protection, critical illness, life), private medical insurance and cashplans.

However, employers should be cautious because the content of support services offered can vary significantly. Some services can be a very light touch helpline whereas others can provide long-term support from a dedicated nurse who can assess and organise the most appropriate face-to-face therapy or counselling

FSB Care provides comprehensive support for people in bereavement from a dedicated registered nurse with bereavement training. A course of specialist bereavement counselling or complementary therapy (e.g. massage to help relaxation or to aid sleep) can be provided when appropriate.

FSB Care is free to members and can be purchased for employees or other non-members.


When employees do receive sensitive and appropriate bereavement support, there are numerous benefits in the workplace including a strong sense of goodwill towards the organisation with increased loyalty and engagement from all staff which makes good business sense too.

[1] McGuinness, 2009  

[2] Research conducted by Atomik on behalf of Co-op Funeralcare with 2,000 UK adults, February 2018 

FSB Care from FSB

FSB members with a serious health condition have free access to a personal nurse adviser - providing practical information and emotional support.

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