Published on in Responsible Business

Death, although harrowing, is the one thing that’s guaranteed in life.

While no one can change this fact, what we can collectively do is support the people around us who are grieving over the passing of a loved one. And the provision of support and care should be no different in the workplace, where it’s estimated an adult will spend 92,120 hours of their time over the course of their life.

Jack’s Law, the first statutory provision of bereavement leave states that grieving parents are entitled to two weeks’ paid leave following the death of a child under the age of 18.

Yet, the most common length of paid bereavement leave among firms is between three and five days (40%), followed by one to two days (14%) and only one in 10 firms (12%) offer two weeks of paid leave, CIPD research finds.

However, aside from the above caveat, there’s still no statutory right to bereavement leave for any other individual who loses a close family member or partner. And we all know that the death of any loved one is just as distressing.

This is all the more stark when you consider that the pandemic significantly increased mortality rates in the UK. For the first time in more than 40 years, deaths exceeded births in 2020.

Considering all this and our ongoing commitment to being a responsible business, we set out to reassess our paid bereavement leave policy and I’ll be sharing the outcomes of our enhanced policy below.

A refresh

The past few years have been life-changing for a lot of people. Recognizing the fact that losing a loved one is one of the most difficult periods in a person’s life, we wanted to better support our colleagues as they grieve.

We felt that our existing, basic processes didn’t reflect Fujitsu’s enhanced focus on supporting our people and their wellbeing. So, late last year we set up a team to review our bereavement and death-in-service policies with the aim of making them more supportive and people-focused.

Our updated programme was launched in February 2022.

The updated policy

Our revamped policy now covers different categories:

  1. Compassionate leave: We recognise that there are many needs that a person nearing the end of their life may have, and that it’s important that the loved ones of those individuals be there. So, compassionate leave is now available for all employees for up to two weeks to care for a seriously ill relative.
  2. Parental bereavement leave: We understand that no amount of time is ever going to be enough for a parent who has lost a child. So, we decided to go above the statutory two weeks leave and age requirement provided by Jack’s Law and make parental bereavement leave available for up to four weeks for parent’s grieving the death of a child of any age. This includes pregnancy loss because we know that this can be a traumatic event that can also lead people to experience grief. And unlike other organisations who only support pregnancy loss from 24 weeks (according to its statutory provision), we acknowledge parental status from day one of pregnancy and paid leave is available to all employees no matter when they join the company.
  3. Bereavement leave: There’s currently no statutory provision following the death of a partner, family member or a close friend, but we’ve included these relationships in our policy and leave is available for up to two weeks.

In addition, we recognise that everyone grieves differently, and some may require a longer period of leave. So, we’ve built flexibility into our policy and a timeframe just needs deciding upon between the individual and their manager.

Marie Curie webinars

Grief and bereavement are topics that a lot of people find difficult to talk about, often struggling to know what to say or how to act around a grieving person. So, we wanted to help people feel a bit more comfortable having those conversations, especially line managers with their team members.

We held two webinars hosted by a bereavement counsellor from the Marie Curie charity to help our employees feel more informed and confident when talking to grieving colleagues. The first webinar was Supporting Bereaved Colleagues for Line Managers, and the second was Understanding Grief for All Employees.

The webinars covered:

  • The impact of grief on an individual at home and work
  • Recognising the difference between sadness in bereavement and depression
  • How to support bereaved colleagues with sensitivity and compassion
  • How to support your team when a colleague dies
  • Managers’ self-care: supporting you to support others
  • Additional sources of support from Fujitsu and Marie Curie

The webinars were recorded and are now stored in our learning management system so that they can be referred to at any time and we can ensure that new managers are able to access them.

After the sessions, many of the managers said the webinars helped them to feel more comfortable talking about grief and bereavement. Which means they’re better skilled at supporting team members and talking to individuals with sensitivity and compassion.

And some employees told me they found the webinar helpful and were going to make a point to check in on colleagues who they thought may be finding things difficult. Although they were often worried about saying the wrong thing, they shared that the webinar reassured them that it was better to say something than nothing at all.

Remembrance website

Our WeRemember page is an internal site that has been created to commemorate colleagues who have passed away.

The site announces the passing of colleagues and aims to support the emotional wellbeing of bereaved employees by providing a space to share memories and messages of condolence.

It’s become a communal way to remember passed colleagues and the feedback has been positive.

Why is having a supportive policy important?

We’re in a time when employee wellbeing and satisfaction is important than ever before. While this should’ve always been the case, it’s great that more strides are now being taken to ensure it is so.

But I think organisations need to focus more on recognising that everyone is different while providing employees support sensitive to their needs.

When employees feel their organisation is making a genuine effort, they feel supported and therefore are more engaged.

Supporting employees through difficult times means that the employee may return to work sooner, and the organisation can retain valuable talent. Also, it shows that the employer cares about its people and this can help with attracting high-skilled talent.

Bereavement is a very tough part of life and we hope that ensuring our policy caters to the needs of our employees during an already difficult time, it will at least relieve the added stress of having to immediately return to work.

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