On Friday, Nov. 27, the HR Daily Advisor ran a guest column by Scott Mastley in which he talked about the critical importance of an organization's bereavement policy in building and maintaining employee loyalty. The column elicited a very favorable response from readers. However, because it appeared over the holiday weekend, the column may not have been seen by many of you, so we are reprinting it here. See what you think.
The way you handle bereavement leave could strengthen or sever an employee's loyalty to your company. A death in the family changes things. When employees lose a family member, they're worried about how to continue, how to handle the funeral, how to take care of surviving family members, how to uphold job responsibilities, and more. They might even start to think about new directions—such as making a career change.
The death of a loved one can be overwhelming, but a little help from you can make a considerable difference in reducing your employee's distress.
HR professionals are a caring bunch. That's one of the reasons why we get to handle the tougher employee situations. We address them with tact and compassion. When I lost my brother in a car accident 15 years ago, my employer said, "Take as much time as you need." It eliminated the worry that I was piling on top of my grief about fulfilling my job duties. Their generosity allowed me to focus on my family and my grief.
If you only allow 1 day off for bereavement leave, it's not enough. If you lost your parent or your child, would 1 day be enough to grieve and get back to work? This is one benefit that is not used often, but when it is needed, it can be crucial in strengthening the employment relationship and in helping your employee handle the loss. Go beyond any state requirements (if you have any in your state) and lead the field with a generous bereavement leave policy.
Show Them You Care
Show your employees that you truly value them, not only as workers but also as people. If you have an employee assistance program (EAP), refer the grieving employee to it for counseling. Having this benefit helped me immensely when I was trying to process my grief and be productive at work. Since EAPs are usually employer-paid benefits, there's no concern about paying for the initial visits. When an employee is grieving, the easier you can make it for him or her, the better.
Read a grief book or get coaching from an EAP grief counselor about how to talk with your bereaved employee. You might be the only person who takes the time to do this, and your employee will appreciate your understanding. Know that work might not be your employee's first priority in the days and weeks following a loss in the family. If your priority is giving the employee time to grieve and providing support resources, he or she will remember your actions. That's how personal and professional relationships are strengthened, and employee loyalty is priceless. Doing the right thing when it comes to bereavement leave is a short-term sacrifice for the employer that results in long-term gains for both the employee and the organization.
Scott Mastley, SPHR, is the principal of Mastley Performance Group, Inc. (MPG). MPG provides human resources and safety consulting, keynote, online and onsite training sessions for supervisors and managers (www.mastleyperformancegroup.com). Mastley is the author of Life with Grief: When a Brother or Sister Dies (www.survivingasibling.com).