Cumbrian employers supporting staff after multiple shooting

Employers in Cumbria are working around the clock to ensure the welfare needs of staff affected by yesterday’s shooting massacre in the county are met.

Twelve people died during former taxi driver Derrick Bird’s killing spree, which saw nuclear reprocessing plant Sellafield lock its gates in a bid to protect staff.

The firm, which employs 10,000 people and is the largest private employer in the region, has put a number of measures in place to help those affected directly or indirectly by the tragic events. This includes making 24 members of staff available from the company’s on-site medical department who are all fully trained and qualified to offer bereavement counselling, while site chaplains are also available.

A Sellafield spokesman said: “At all times, we have an employee support service that provides employees with any support they need in total confidence. The three Sellafield unions, Prospect, GMB and Unite, are also on hand should employees wish to contact them. We have issued a notice to all employees reminding them that this support is available.”

Cumbria County Council, which employs 17,000 staff, told Personnel Today any requests for time off will be treated “sympathetically”.

Jamie Sims, assistant director of people management at the council, said: “I put a note out to all staff that we will treat cases sympathetically. Depending on the situation, [it might be] appropriate time off work, compassionate leave, or bereavement leave.”

Sims said the council was “wearing two hats” in terms of dealing with staff welfare issues, with the authority looking after those on the front line, such as fire crews involved in the response, as well as council administrative employees whose family members had been affected by the shootings.

An employee assistance helpline has been set up, allowing staff to receive an assessment of their needs over the phone. It can also include face-to-face counselling for people whose family members have been killed.

The second provision is longer term, and involves occupational health referrals through line management. “If someone has a delayed reaction in two weeks’ time, they still have access to support,” Sims said. “They go and see their manager who can refer them on to occupational health.”

Last November, HR professionals in Cumbria praised the “tremendous” efforts of employees during the devastating floods that hit parts of the county, forcing more than 500 people from their homes and destroying six bridges.

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