How to Manage Bereavement in the Workplace

Updated on May 26, 2020
LawCat profile image

Kate has over eight years of experience as an employment and personal injury legal executive. She runs LawCat, a legal explanations website.

How to Handle Mourning at the Workplace

Suffering the loss of a loved one will be a difficult time in many aspects. It will obviously have a dramatic effect on your emotional wellbeing for some time and this in turn can affect all areas of your life including your employment.

If you employ people to work for you who then suffer a bereavement you will need to be aware of how to best handle the situation so that both the employee and your business are taken care of.

This article will address bereavement, in particular, how suffering a bereavement can impact on employment, both for employees and employers. By the end of the article employers should have an understanding of what support should be offered to a grieving employee and the best practice for dealing with this difficult and upsetting situation. While employees should have an understanding of the potential help available to them from their employer.

Are Workers Entitled to Time Off Work When Someone Dies?

Employees are protected under the Employment Rights Act in respect to time off for bereavement. Under Section 57(A) of the Employment Rights Act 1996, an employee is entitled to reasonable time off work to deal with an emergency such as bereavement. However, the use of the word reasonable can cause confusion as its meaning can differ from person-to-person and situation-to-situation.

How much time off should an employee get for bereavement?

In order to assess how much time would be considered reasonable each situation must be weighed on its own merits. As said above it will be different for each employee and must be judged individually. An employer does not have to pay an employee for time off from work for bereavement. However, many employers will offer paid compassionate leave as part of their employment package.

How to Discuss Death at Work

As with many aspects of life, communication is key to a successful working relationship between employer and employee. While bereavement is a delicate subject and can be uncomfortable to discuss, it is crucial to have that discussion. Here are some tips.

  • It is likely that immediately after the death, an employee will not wish to speak much or at all. An employer should try not to pressure the employee into making decisions regarding work at this point.
  • An employer should offer their condolences early on in the process, remember whilst this person is your employee and your relationship is a business relationship it is a good idea to show your more human side in situations such as this. A little sympathy goes a long way.
  • Make sure that the bereaved employee knows they are not expected to work on the day the death has taken place. An employee will feel more supported if they hear that work comes second. Being clear about this removes any kind of potential misunderstanding as well as a lot of stress for an employee who has recently suffered a tragic loss, it also offers comfort that the employer cares about their well-being.
  • One of the questions that should be raised is is it ok for the employer to tell the employee’s co-workers if they say no then this is protected data and should not be shared.
  • It is also important for employers to be conscious of an employee’s religious needs, for example, Jewish employees may wish for the seven days of mourning to be observed.
  • Some time after the initial bereavement, there should be a discussion regarding work. Employers should try to be understanding at this point, being open and honest is key but keep in mind each other’s viewpoints and try to agree on a way forward.
  • After the initial discussion, an open dialogue should be encouraged, with employers checking in on the employee every so often. However, this should not be constant as that could constitute harassment and bullying. Employers should ask employees how they would like to stay in contact. Are there particular times to avoid? Agree with yourselves early on when check-ins should be made, for example, every week or fortnight until after the funeral.
  • After the funeral, it might be wise to consider a second meeting, as the employee will have had some time to come to terms with what is needed of them to deal with the bereavement, both physically and emotionally and will be in a better position to give an estimate of when they can return to work.

There is no one size fits all approach to bereavement, it depends on so many factors, the bereaved person and their relationship with the deceased is just one aspect. The employer/manager should keep communication with the bereaved employee open to keep everyone aware of the situation. Some employers have reported that despite this being a terrible tragedy, by keeping communication open and being understanding, it has strengthened their relationship, not only with the bereaved employee but with the entire workforce.

Mental Health at Work

Bereavement can trigger mental health issues such as anxiety and depression in employees. An employer needs to be aware that if an employee becomes depressed or suffers from PTSD because of a bereavement they may be considered disabled under the Equality Act of 2010.

The Equality Act 2010 states that employers must make reasonable adjustments for employees who are considered disabled, such as altering working hours. However, if an employee does become depressed due to the bereavement they should keep the employer informed of this and may have to provide sick notes from their GP to confirm the diagnosis.

Once an employee returns to work regular reviews should take place to ensure they are coping with their workload and other members of staff are coping as well.


In conclusion, if an employee suffers bereavement this will be a tragic and challenging time for them and their employer. However, there are ways to manage expectations and workloads to ensure that the business relationship does not become weak or damaged as a result of poor handling of the situation. Open communication is key, being honest and open about expectations on both sides will help prevent confusion. Being sympathetic and understanding will help strengthen a working relationship not only with the bereaved employee but with the entire workforce. Lastly, should an employee suffer with depression as a result of the bereavement then extra steps will need to be taken to ensure a return to work.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • LawCat profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      Thank you, I'm glad you found it helpful. It sounds like you were a good leader for your team.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      2 years ago from U.S.A.

      Suffering a loss is an individualized situation. As you correctly pointed out, everyone does not grieve in the same way. Employers have to take that into consideration.

      When I led a team of professionals, postponing meetings, checking (occasionally) with the person who had a loss, and staying supportive were some strategies I used with my staff when such crisis arose of this nature.

      Your article is very informative and provides good guidance for people in leadership positions as well as for the average employee.

      Thank you.





    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)