How compassionate should you be?

Compassionate leaveThe sad fact is that during our working lives, we will all lose people who are dear to us.  As an employer, how do you support your employee during a difficult time?


Compassionate Leave

At the moment, should a member of your staff loose a loved one, you are under no obligation to give them paid time off work.  I personally feel it would be a pretty harsh employer who would force their staff to take a holiday or unpaid leave for the funeral of a spouse, child or parent for example.

The question is, where do you draw the line?  Were they really that close to great Auntie Flo who they haven’t seen since they moved to Cornwall 8 years’ ago?  What about step-families?  Do you judge each case on its merits?

What if the loved one has a terminal illness?  Are you expected to give them months of paid compassionate leave?  Can you offer them flexible working arrangements to help them look after their loved one?

I believe in having a compassionate leave policy that sets out some guidelines of what paid time off you would give.  By all means take into account the particular circumstances and adjust accordingly.  At least you would have a basis to work from.

Show Some Sympathy

A card or a bunch of flowers will show your employee that you are thinking of them.  When they return to work, ask them in private how they are doing.  May be they will cry but remember, they are crying because they lost a loved one, not because you asked them how they are feeling.  The smallest gestures are appreciated at a difficult time.


A Change of Job Role

Sometimes you may be forced to think about the how the loss of a loved one may affect their ability to continue doing the same role.  If they are still deeply upset by their loss but their job role involves them smiling broadly for your customers, would a back office role be more appropriate until they recovered?



Some employees may benefit from seeking bereavement counselling.  If you have a pension or medical scheme provider, contact them to see if this is a service available to your staff member.  If their loved one was affected by a medical condition, many charities offer free counselling.  MacMillian for example offer excellent support to loved ones of those suffering from cancer.

Alternatively, there are many private counsellors available.  Would you be willing to pay for a limited number of sessions to help your valued staff member to recover?


You can gain or lose the loyalty of key staff by the way you treat them during a difficult time.  A little bit of compassion can go a long way.

Categories Compassionate Leave, Uncategorized