It is normal for an employee to lose a loved one during their working life. Therefore, it is always advisable for every employer to develop a sound bereavement leave policy.
Losing a loved one can cause trauma which can last even for years. However, a significant number of employers do not have bereavement leave policies in place to support grieving employees. Managing grieving employees can be challenging and comfortable for most human resource managers.
There are many considerations that managers should have in mind at such difficult times on a personal and professional level. For example, they should deal with the situation depending on factors such as the relationship that existed between an employee and the deceased, circumstances that led to the loss, and the relationship between the employee and an organization. Workers should be given enough time to grieve.
Even after giving a bereavement leave to an employee to finish planning a funeral, they will still be grieving when they return to work. As a human resource manager, you extend your kindness to help the individual to cope through the different stages of grief. Failure to have a sound bereavement policy can damage employee relations and result in low employee retention rates.
Some bereavement leave considerations all HR managers need to know:
- The managers should show compassion towards employees after they return to work as their grief may interfere with their performance. The human resource managers should train their supervisors and other members of staff on how they should handle grieving employees. Some organizations offer counseling services to the affected employees to enable them to cope through the difficult time.
- Ensure that employees are aware of all the details of the bereavement leave policy in advance. However, when one of them loses a loved one, they may not follow all the rules in the policy. It is normal for them to forget some details at such moments. As a manager, you should consider relaxing some of the requirements temporarily.
- The bereavement policy should be flexible as different employees may take longer than others to get back to normalcy after returning to work. For example, some of them may be able to get back to work after losing a loved one, while others may need more time. Having a flexible policy promotes fairness among employees. Some organizations have bereavement policies that specify how long a leave can be depending on how close the deceased was to an employee. However, drawing lines is not as easy as it may sound. For example, it may seem easy for human resource managers to give a 2 week leave for an employee if they lose a parent and 1 week if they lose a grandparent. But you may find an employee who was raised by their grandparent and managers should consider such situations.
- Employees develop strong relationships between them over time. Therefore, if one of them is grieving, others may also be affected directly or indirectly. Human resource managers and supervisors should be aware of this and treat them with compassion. The policy should permit the other employees to join the funeral service to show concern and support for the bereaved colleague.
- Consider changing or reducing the normal responsibilities of an employee who has lost a loved one temporarily. The move can help to reduce the pressure on the individual and allow them to be productive in other departments. Allow an employee to make mistakes when they return to work as their energy may decrease. For example, they may say something wrong on irrelevant during a meeting, show them extra patience until they recover from the trauma of losing a loved one.
- As a manager, you should talk to the bereaved employee and show that you care for them when they come back to work. Let them know that you are available if they would like to talk to someone. However, avoid giving advice to them at such a moment.
- In some cases, a bereaved employee can suffer from mental health conditions due to the trauma of losing a close relative, and this may lead to disability in the long run. For some employees, it may take years to recover fully. Human resource managers should pay attention to signs of the health condition and make necessary adjustments.