COVID-19 Puts Bereavement Policies and Support Firmly Under the Microscope

In light of COVID-19, Business in the Community (BitC) stresses the vital need for employers to review their bereavement policies and support, highlighting many people won’t just be working remotely, they may also be grieving remotely.

To meet this need, together with KPMG UK and National Grid, BitC has launched a new toolkit outlining how responsible businesses can best support their employees with bereavement. It recognises that while grief among the working age population is not a new issue, COVID-19 has brought about greater challenges, in some cases amplifying the experience of losing a loved one, with many unable to be present when saying goodbye.

Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director, Business in the Community (BitC), said: “With the UK’s COVID-19 death toll the worst in Europe, most of us will be touched by death, bereavement and grief during the pandemic.

“Employers must stop shying away from discussing the deeply uncomfortable topic of death. There is an urgent need for all employers to take a pragmatic approach to considering the impact that thousands of deaths have, and continue to have, on employees. 

“Now is the time for business communities to step up and collectively share the responsibility of talking openly about death, listening and supporting one another.”

Anna Purchas, Partner and Head of People at KPMG UK, added: “With COVID-19 altering dramatically the scale and nature of deaths in the UK, it has never been more important for business leaders to act with and encourage empathy, compassion, and inclusion; to integrate death and bereavement support into your mental health strategy, encourage healthy conversations about the topic, listen, and put protocols in place to empower line managers to support their reports.

“We can’t know with any certainty what will happen in the months ahead, but we can take proactive steps to act responsibly now. This toolkit will help you think about your response and navigate these uncertain times.”

The new toolkit – designed for employers of all sizes to use during this pandemic and beyond – recognises that grief is deeply personal. Employers are encouraged to leverage the key principles of dignity, decency and respect by acknowledging that many employees will be affected by death; responding and providing pragmatic support to employees to help them look after their wellbeing; and referring employees to available help and support.

Rachael Davidson, General Counsel, National Grid, Ventures & Group Assurance, concluded: “Death is a difficult topic for most of us at any time, but even more so during COVID-19 as we may not be able to use our traditional methods of helping each other to grieve. While we have been living through lockdown and social distancing, it doesn’t mean grief, if faced with a bereavement, is any less.”

You can access the Business in the Community toolkit here: Death, bereavement and grief and the impact of COVID-19. You can also view on demand the BitC’s recent webinar on Death, bereavement, grief and the impact of COVID-19 here.

About the author

Claire Farrow is the Global Director of Content and Programming for the Mad World and Make a Difference Summits. She also drives the content for Make A Difference News. Claire is on a mission to help every employer – large, medium and small – get the insight, inspiration and contacts they need to make real impact on workplace culture, mental health and wellbeing in their organisation. She has been freelance for more than 15 years. During that time, she has had the honour of working with many leading publishers, including the New York Times

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