When you take a period of bereavement leave, you are in a period of upset and trauma. Therefore, coping with parts of your life that you would typically have found easy, suddenly become challenging. You are faced with having to adapt, both in your capacity to deal with other people and your ability to complete work. You may not feel ready to go back to work, or you may need your manager to help you with this return. Here we offer some simple advice and support to deal with the period straight after a bereavement.
How much time can you have off work?
The law will feel unhelpful. Legal guidance to organisations is that the period given should be reasonable for close family. The Employment Rights Act of 1996 needs to be unspecific. There are so many work contexts, and the period of bereavement is highly individual. Therefore, by using the word “reasonable”, the law gives room for the organisation to make informed choices to help employees.
ACAS, the organisation tasked with mediating between bosses and their workers, defined “reasonable” as 2 days. This might seem like anywhere near enough, and you may need to approach your GP and ask to be signed off. However, when you do this, your period away from work is counted as sick leave. Only the 2 days will be counted as bereavement leave and should not be used as part of a dis
It is also worth pointing out that the close family has a tight definition. It is your spouse, partner, parent, child, sibling, aunts, uncles, and cousins, as well as your grandparents. Many have a friend who you consider a closer member of the family than any of these people, they do not count. You will not be able to ask for bereavement leave. The only hope is that your company will apply discretion and permit you the time you need.
Many experts in the field feel that a period of paid leave after a death significantly improves employee loyalty and commitment. Therefore, you may want to start a discussion with your management about the bereavement policy and what you feel is “reasonable.”
Making the decision about when is right
Often a return to some sort of regular routine can be beneficial after a bereavement. The more you stay at home, the greater hold the grief may take. Even though 2 days feels too few, it is there to give you time to deal with the initial arrangements and get passed the initial sense of shock. After this period, you might find a routine of your workplace more helpful than you think.
When deciding on when to go back to work, keep in touch with your line manager. In a best-case, your company will have a clear HR policy that will guide your manager’s actions. If not, you need to help them understand your needs and what you do and do not feel capable of doing.
When making the decision to return, you need to be mindful a) of your usefulness in your role and, for some posts, b) your safety. You may need to be guided by your manager to stay at home and seek help from your GP to gain the required time away from work.
How to make your return
One of the significant hurdles to returning to work is letting your colleagues know that you have suffered a loss. You do not want to have to spend your first day recounting to everyone you meet what has happened. You might not think telling them is a good idea at all. However, if you don’t, they may never know why you appear withdrawn or distracted and may treat you harshly. You need to allow them to do the right thing by you.
There are several ways of letting your colleagues in on your news. First, you could compose an email that you send to all those that matter explaining your loss. Alternatively, you could use social media instead. If you don’t feel up to make the announcement, you could always ask your manager to let people know for you. Alternatively, a colleague from human resources if they offer a more sensitive option.
Remember, grief can leave you feeling overwhelmed, irritable, exhausted, and impatient. Therefore, adjusting back into the workplace requires understanding and empathy from the people around you. You might also need to be repositioned away from a customer-facing role for a while.