Advice on how to speak to a bereaved employee

How to best support a worker who has recently lost a loved one can be challenging, so an HR resource tool has given their advice on what employers should do.

XpertHR made these suggestions following the implementation of Jack’s Law. Parents who suffer the loss of a child under the age of 18 will be entitled to two weeks paid statutory parental bereavement leave (SPBL). This law will come in to effect from the 6th April this year and was announced by Andrea Leadsom, the business secretary.

The law is named in memory of Jack Herd, a 23-month-old who died in a pond.

Around, 7,500 child deaths or stillbirths occur every year in the UK, with the Government estimating this law will help support roughly 10,000 parents.

The advice given by XpertHR is:

  • Ensure that managers and HR teams are mindful of the potential immediate and long-term effects of grief
  • Limit initial conversations with a bereaved employee to offering condolences and addressing immediate matters, and leave detailed discussions until a later date
  • Take into account the employee’s particular circumstances and recognise that they may need additional time off
  • Make sure bereaved employees are aware of any access they have to external support services, for example through your organisation’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or group insurance
  • Consider any temporary changes a bereaved employee may need to their hours or role to enable them to return to work
  • Be aware that bereavement can have a long-lasting impact and that a bereaved employee may need ongoing flexibility and support.


Jo Stubbs, XpertHR’s global head of content product strategy, said:

When it comes to statutory rights, there is currently little provision in relation to bereavement. It’s limited to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off under the time off for dependants legislation – and this is specifically to take any ‘necessary action’ when a dependant dies. Obviously many organisations do offer paid bereavement leave, but our research[iii] has found that for the closest relationships – including children, partners, parents and siblings – the median entitlement is five days. This means the majority of employers will need to amend their policies regarding paid time off in light of the new law.

At the same time employers may wish to look at the general support they provide for bereaved employees.  While the loss of child is thankfully relatively rare, the death of someone close such as a parent or partner is something that most employees will experience at some time during their working lives. Supporting bereaved employees is therefore something that all HR professionals and line managers need to be prepared for.

This law now means that the UK is the world leader in paid bereavement leave, as Canada offers 5 days, France offers 3-5 paid days, Spain 2-4 days, China 1-3 days, Australia 2 days and Brazil 2 days.





Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.