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Bereavement benefits: Employers aren’t doing enough, report says

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The loss of a loved one can be a life-changing event – but many are expected to show up to work with a smile and continue to do their full workload. If you’re an executor of an estate, that can be even more added stress. 

Many workplaces have bereavement policies in place – nearly 62%, according to a recent report from Empathy – but beyond a few days off, grieving employees are given little to no support, despite the effect that loss and bereavement can have on productivity, morale and more. 

Here’s what’s missing for grieving for employees and how you can deliver it.

The impact of bereavement in the workplace

According to Empathy’s report, few employers go above and beyond typical bereavement leave.

In fact, nearly half (43%) offer no additional bereavement support beyond time off. On average, employers only offer 5.6 days of time off for bereavement. 

But grief doesn’t just go away after that time – it continues to affect employees for 10 months or more, the report found. 

And the effects of experiencing loss can easily seep into an employee’s work. Empathy’s report found that employees who experienced a loss:

  • Had trouble concentrating (20%)
  • Were less productive (18%)
  • Felt a decline in their reputation (9%), and
  • Were afraid of losing their job (7%). 

Those struggles can also be amplified if the employee is an executor of a deceased loved one’s estate. Nearly all (92%) of nominated executors say that their work was impacted, and executors were twice as likely to feel a decline in their work reputation.

“We all confront the pain of loss at one point or another; however, when the moment arrives, most of us find ourselves unprepared for the profound impact it has on our families, our jobs and our well-being,” said Ron Gura, co-founder and CEO, Empathy. “Our latest research continues to underscore the immense impact of bereavement on employees and highlights the critical need for extended support beyond paid leave. By leveraging these findings, companies can build a more compassionate environment for their employees, lessening their burdens and helping them when they need it most.”

How employers can lessen the load

With a quarter (25.9%) of respondents saying they know co-workers who faced a recent loss, it’s clear that this problem isn’t rare – yet it’s rarely talked about. 

What can HR do to help lessen the load for employees during a tumultuous time? Here are a few ideas:

  • Offer additional bereavement support: Going beyond the typical bereavement leave benefit can make a world of difference for a grieving employee. Consider offering access to resources like support groups, financial support and counseling. 
  • Train managers on helping employees: A manager’s support can help employees stay on track with work duties and make them more likely to communicate what they need.  
  • Start at the top: Normalizing conversations about bereavement in the workplace is a great step, but it can’t happen without leaders partaking, too. Staying open and starting conversations about tough topics like loss can help employees feel more comfortable to open up, too. 

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