According to Government figures, COVID-19 has appeared on over 121,000 death certificates. That is 121,000 people who have families and friends grieving their loss. The chances are that at least one of those grieving works for you.
Bereavement is always an issue for employers. Grieving can cause time off work, presenteeism (where someone is in work but the mind is elsewhere), poor concentration, behaving out of character, lower productivity, and so on. This may be worse if it is an employee that staff are grieving for.
COVID-19 and the associated restrictions have made bereavement harder for people to cope with. People may not have been able to say goodbye. They may not have been able to attend the funeral. They may not be able to hug their friends or family for comfort and love.
This has been shown in the past few weeks where a top football manager's mother died in Germany. Due to COVID rules, he could not visit to say his goodbyes or to attend the funeral. Seeing him on TV shows the affect this is having on him both mentally and emotionally.
Similarly, the numbers involved, the wall to wall media coverage, and the lockdown may be affecting people who have not lost someone as if they had. The nation has, in effect, gone into a collective grief.
It is important that employers know what to do, how to help and how to support their employees during their grief. It is also important to know that grief can last many many years.
So what can an employer do to help their employees - who, let's not forget, may not actually be in the usual workplace but working from home?
BUPA produced an excellent document last year to help employers and managers deal with grief. It is free to download from here. The document gives many useful tips and help on what to do, how to identify grief, what to say to someone, and what not to say. It identifies how to create a supportive workplace that helps, rather than hinders both employer and the grieving employee.
If you have not got a bereavement policy, maybe now is the time to get one. Speak to your HR representative for advice on this.
Other help and support on bereavement is available from:
Cruse Bereavement 0808 808 1677
Bereavement Advice Centre 0800 634 9494
Mind 0300 123 3393
Samaritans 116 123