Almost a quarter of workers did not get the support they needed from their employers after a bereavement, according to a survey by funeral directors CPJ Field.
More than four in 10 did not receive paid leave to attend a loved one’s funeral, and 19% took no time off to grieve following the death.
The company found that 24% of those who had suffered a bereavement felt they did not get the right level of support, while 27% wished they had been given more support prior to the death of their loved one, such as time off to care for them.
Three-quarters of workers think there should be an official bereavement policy in place for UK employers, and 94% of these workers think this should be flexible because circumstances around death can be so varied.
According to the Sue Ryder charity, bereavement at work costs the UK economy £23bn a year through reduced tax revenue and increased use of NHS and social care services. In 2020, the charity called for the government to introduce two weeks’ paid bereavement leave.
CPJ Field has launched a campaign and petition under the #paidleavetogrieve, encouraging political parties to introduce pledges around bereavement policies in their 2024 election manifestos.
Jeremy Field, managing director of CPJ Field, said: “Just as no two lives are the same, neither are two people’s experience of grief.
“Through our experience of supporting families following the death of a loved one and beyond, we’ve identified a need within the UK for an official employer bereavement policy. We’re calling for UK employers to broaden their offering of compassionate leave and offer paid leave to all workers when it’s needed most.”
While many employers offer compassionate leave, there is currently no statutory right to paid time off when someone close to an employee dies. Parental bereavement leave and pay is however available in circumstances where an employee’s child dies, or the employee suffers a stillbirth.
Travel writer Flora Baker, who is working with CPJ Field on its bereavement policy campaign, said: “When I discovered my dad was dying, I thought I knew what was coming because I’d already been through it with my mum nine years earlier… but the grief of his death felt very different.
“Every relationship you have is unique, so it makes sense that the grief is too. Grief isn’t a linear process: we feel isolated by these intense emotions, and we don’t know how to ‘recover’ from them.”
She added that talking honestly about grief would help employees support each other through a difficult time.