Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg recently announced that the company would double its standard bereavement leave allowance, giving employees a total of 20 days off work to grieve for immediate family members.
Sandberg herself has spoken publicly about the death of her husband back in 2015, and in a statement issued via the social media network, she said: ‘We need public policies that make it easier for people to care for their children and aging parents and for families to mourn and heal after loss’.
Though many issues in the workplace are sensitive and difficult to handle, it could be said that this one is one of the very hardest to navigate.
As a leader, this kind of situation can leave you wondering what to do for the best. Of course you’re conscious of the needs of your staff, and you want to make sure that they’re supported during what is one of the most stressful and upsetting times in their lives…
But you also have a business to think about. And it wouldn’t serve anyone at all for you to not have robust policies that you can implement in such situations.
Let’s consider the legislation when it comes to bereavement leave. Here in the UK, there is no statutory right to receive paid leave after the death of a loved one or a family member. Workers are however entitled to take a ‘reasonable amount’ of unpaid time off when they have experienced the death of a dependent.
Ultimately, this means that it’s down to you to decide what’s fair, and how you want to make sure that you strike an effective balance between being a sympathetic and reasonable employer, and ensuring that day-to-day operational requirements are being met.
The issue of bereavement leave is something that you might not even think about until you find yourself trying to navigate your way through a particularly sensitive set of circumstances. But it’s in the kind of situation when you need to ensure that you know exactly what your approach is going to be.
The bottom line here? No one likes to think about the practicalities of creating a bereavement policy. Taking action now though is likely to save you – and more pertinently – your staff a great deal of heartache in the longer term.