Supporting Bereaved Customers and Employees

As the Bereavement Pay & Leave Bill is scheduled for its second reading in the House of Commons on 18 March, this article focuses on grief. What steps can organisations make to better support customers and employees following a bereavement?


Our Response to Loss

The death of a loved one is a traumatic life experience and grief is our response to this loss. Grief can take many forms including emotional pain, distress, anger, sadness, regret, shock, emptiness and even relief. No matter how grief takes hold, it is difficult to just get on with normal life.


In a state of grief, it can be difficult to focus, process information and undertake routine tasks. It can feel as though an essential part of life is missing and individuals may question how to go on without their loved one. There may also be financial concerns or fear about taking on additional responsibilities.


Whilst in this vulnerable emotional state, the bereaved have to deal with many practical issues. Funeral arrangements, paperwork, and formal processes, as well as informing family and friends. This can be complex, time-consuming, and draining. The attitude and behaviours of others impact how people get through these necessities.


Supporting Vulnerable Customers and Employees

For any organisation, friend or relative that is supporting someone who has recently been bereaved, empathy, patience and kindness are essential qualities.


Death is a difficult subject to approach, it is emotionally distressing, and many people try to avoid it. We might assume we know how someone is feeling, but the experience and impact are different for everyone.

Bereavement training is a valuable step in helping people to talk more openly about grief and to have the skills and resources to support customers or colleagues who have lost a loved one. It can improve our understanding of what people might be dealing with and how to be supportive.


Bereavement training is particularly important in industries where conversations with those in mourning occur regularly. This includes life insurance firms, solicitors, health & social care professions and banks.


If you do find yourself in conversation with a grieving customer or colleague, it is important to think about how they would want to be treated. Focus on what can be done to support the individual and help them move forward, rather than the circumstances or cause of death. Taking your time, listening, and responding with empathy are also key.


The Bereavement Pay & Leave Bill

On 7 February 2022, Northern Ireland passed the Bereavement Pay & Leave Bill which will come into force in April. This means that employers in Northern Ireland are legally obliged to provide 2-weeks paid, statutory leave to working parents who suffer the death of a child or stillbirth. It is intended that this will be extended to also include miscarriages.


This parental bereavement entitlement is already in force across the rest of the UK; however, Patricia Gibson of the Scottish National Party wants to extend the Bill. She has proposed the provision of leave and pay for employees who have lost a close family member. The second reading of this amendment to the Bereavement Pay & Leave Bill is scheduled for 18 March.


At present, granting compassionate leave is at the discretion of the employer. Whilst the majority are understanding, there is no legal obligation to provide leave and pay to an employee who has lost their spouse, parent, or sibling. Will we see this change in the future?


The Value of a Bereavement Policy, Training & Signposting

Bereavement training is a valuable step in helping people to talk more openly about grief and to have the skills and resources to support customers or colleagues who have lost a loved one. It can improve our understanding of what people might be dealing with and how to be supportive.


Bereavement training is particularly important in industries where conversations with those in mourning occur regularly. This includes life insurance firms, solicitors, health & social care professions and banks.


Do you already have a bereavement policy in place for customers and/or employees? By providing clear information, a policy can empower individuals to confidently provide consistent support to those in need. It is useful to include a return-to-work process in the policy.


Again, bereavement training can help the team know how to respond to a returning colleague without awkwardness or fear of saying the wrong thing. It can also inform signposting to bereavement support organisations.*


It is important to note that grief doesn’t dissipate after a few days, weeks, or months. It can take years to find ways to cope, to adjust, to find a new purpose and to live life without guilt. For those finding it especially difficult, bereavement counselling can be beneficial.


Death is a difficult matter, but that is not a reason to avoid Bereavement & Grief Training or open and honest conversations. It is only with a greater understanding that we can build the empathy and resources to help others in their darkest moments.


*Bereavement Support Organisations UK

Cruse - https://www.cruse.org.uk/

Mind - https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/bereavement/useful-contacts/

The Good Grief Trust - https://www.thegoodgrieftrust.org/


© 2021 by Helen Pettifer Training. Created by Lawrence Wood - Transformational Communications.

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