Bereavement Benefits - How HR Leaders Can Offer Employees Support When They Need it Most

In 2023, 20% of employees will experience loss in their lives. They may lose a family member, friend, colleague, or someone else they were close to. 

Unfortunately, people don’t talk about grief and loss in the workplace, as it’s still a very taboo subject. This makes it that much harder on employees who are in mourning. On top of the fact that they can’t express how they feel, they may not be given enough time off to properly grieve. Most companies offer three to seven days, but some only offer one day of leave if the person who died was not an immediate family member. 

HR teams are tasked with determining the number of days employees can take off when they experience loss, as well as other bereavement benefits they may receive. It’s up to them to come up with the best policy possible for their teams. 

Bereavement benefits were the topic of a recent conversation between Lauren Schneider, Head of Communications at Compt, and Aurelie Biehler, Founder and CEO at Memoria. In her work, Biehler helps people arrange funerals, cremations, wills and trusts, and obituaries from the comfort of their own homes. 

If you’re looking to establish or build upon your bereavement policy at your company, here are some key tips from Schneider and Biehler on how to do just that – while increasing employee loyalty and engagement at the same time.

Consider Providing Longer Leave

Some companies only provide three days of bereavement leave. But as Biehler pointed out, traveling to a funeral and/or arranging it could take three days alone. That doesn’t leave an employee any time to actually grieve or even start to take care of estate management. “You have employers who are expecting you to waltz back into the office three days later and be fine,” she said. 

While some people may welcome the return the work – perhaps it helps them take their mind off their pain – others need more time. Everybody’s situation is different, and if you’re rigid about leave times, it could scar an employee and have a negative impact on their loyalty and productivity. It’s a good idea to consider providing longer leave in general, or at the very least giving longer leave on a case-by-case basis. You will show that you care about your employees and their well-being and that those things come first, above all else.

Be Flexible With Your Policy

Companies may only take bereavement leave seriously and provide enough time if an employee lost an immediate member of their family, like their spouse, child, parent, or sibling. But people have different relationships – sometimes, an aunt raises a person and is like a mother to them. Also, an employee may have had a pet for many years and had to put that pet down; the pet was just as much a member of their family as any human was. The grief may hit an employee right away, or it could happen one or two months down the line. They can’t predict that. 

That’s why flexibility is key. Being flexible with employees and letting them tell you how much time off they need when they need it, as well as what support they’d like, is crucial. 

“Companies kind of want things standardized, but it’s hard to put people in buckets,” said Biehler.

Schneider jumped off that point. “If we’re supporting people and being more flexible with leave, we’re going to see better employees and productivity, as well as better relationships between employers and employees.”

Add Leave for Pregnancy Loss

Losing a pregnancy is a very difficult thing for any parent to go through. If you’ve never experienced it, you might not think about it, but it is important to include it in your policies. 

The person who was carrying the baby needs time to heal physically and emotionally, and the non-birthing partner and any other caregivers involved also need time to mourn. Your HR team should be having a conversation about how to incorporate pregnancy loss into your bereavement policy. 

Try Using a Stipend

Creating or overhauling your bereavement policy may seem overwhelming – that’s why you might want to consider using a stipend for employees instead. This puts the power in your employees’ hands, letting them use their employee perk stipend in any way they please. It’s also much less work for you since it simplifies HR’s job and streamlines monthly payroll reimbursements. 

You can create a stipend program for bereavement, along with other employee needs like health and wellness, family, pets, internet, professional development, financial wellness, and more. Additionally, employees can support their grieving coworkers by sending them food or other gifts with their stipends. It’s a simple way to show they care, but it can go a long way and build camaraderie amongst your employees.

To find out more about Compt’s employee perk stipend, request a demo today.

Check out other episodes of Getting Personal With Compt.

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