Dealing With Grief In The Workplace

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 7 April 2020
Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite
Issues covered:

Managing grief at work is important. Bereavement policies are not just good practice, they are extremely helpful to employees and managers, ensuring a proactive and equitable approach by clearly defining employee entitlements and supports.

There are many types of grief and as a manager it is important to know the differences in an attempt to understand grief and how your workplace can help. Anticipatory Grief occurs when death is expected.  It can start long before the person actually passes away and is often brought on by a diagnosis or when the person’s health starts to deteriorate. Normal grief begins soon after the loss occurs and the bereaved person begins to accept the loss and continue their day to day tasks. Complicated grief is grief that lasts a lot longer than normal and can affect the bereaved person’s ability to carry out day to day tasks. Delayed grief is when a reaction to the loss occur at a later time. This can be brought on by another significant life event or by something unrelated.

The following supports that the company should advocate following bereavement within your business include:

  • Compassionate Leave  - while this is not legislatively required it is offered as a gesture of goodwill within many companies. If you do not have this in place the below is a best practice guide. 
    • Wife, Husband, Son, Daughter, Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Mother-in-law, Father-in-law - 3 days.
    • Resident Relative (not immediate family, but living in the family home) – 2days
    • Brother-in-law, Sister-in-law, Uncle, Aunt, Grandparent, Son-in-law, Daughter-in-law, Grandchild, Nephew, Niece – 1 day.
  • Operate an open-door policy with your staff with regard to work related or personal problems which must always be treated in the strictest confidence. It is important, as management, to be of as much assistance as possible in resolving such problems or allying the fears of your employees, you should make time for your employee(s) and listen sympathetically. 
  • You, as the manager, should be available to support the employee in any possible way. Management should speak with the employee on a confidential basis with what supports the organisation can assist them with.
  • Work colleagues can be a great source of help. Work colleagues may want to help but may not know how to go about it.  Open up the channels of communication and let them know.
  • Another option is to put an Employee Assistance Programme in place if the company does not already have one. EAP is a proactive support programme with the objectives of supporting employees whose health or wellbeing is being adversely affected. The EAP allows employees to avail of a range of professionals to help with any issues that may arise. By offering an EAP to employees, they can find the information and support that they need, to help gain a better work-life balance. They have confidential access to a resource that can remedy issues and potentially reduce stress.

Remember it is important to support colleagues who might find it difficult when the time comes to return to work. When the employee returns to work Managers and co-workers are not expected to take on the role of grief counsellor for an employee who has experienced the loss of a loved one. However, there are other ways to be supportive in the workplace. We urge Managers to encourage wellbeing in the following way during this time. 

Connect: Evidence shows that good relationships with family, friends, colleagues and the wider community are important for mental wellbeing.  This is important within the workplace. 

Be active: Encourage exercise in the workplace for example, lunchtime walks or runs.   

Be mindful: Work can become so busy for everyone.  It is important to be more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. It can positively change the way people feel about life and how you approach challenges. 

Keep learning: Encourage employees to try something new for example, take on a different responsibility at work. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Give: Individuals who illustrate a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy.


This article is correct at 07/04/2020

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite

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