As SMEs owners and managers work so closely with their staff, it’s hard not to show compassion when they’re faced with a personal problem.
However, we do have businesses to run. And absences, whatever the reason, can cause disruption. This is particularly true with absence caused by bereavement. Traditionally, Compassionate Leave is based on up to three days paid leave to deal with the death of a close family member, although there is no statutory entitlement to paid compassionate leave, what you do allow will speak volumes about what kind of employer you are. The first difficulty comes in defining who is a close family member: what about parents, step-parents, step-grandparents? Does a request to attend the funeral
of a boyfriend’s aunt qualify?
Employment law rarely gives you straight yes/no answers! In light of this we would recommend you opt for a flexible policy that allows you to respond appropriately to individual situations. It is a good idea to have a list of family members that you cover: grandparents, parents, children and siblings etc. of the individual and their partner. Bear in mind that the majority of families no longer live around the corner from each other. The death of a parent may necessitate travelling a long distance to deal with the aftermath like registering the death and arranging a funeral.
Trying to get funeral dates within three days would be nigh on impossible, so perhaps a longer amount of time off is more appropriate. Or it might be more useful for those dealing with local arrangements to have individual days off to deal with matters. This could be paid leave with some holiday or unpaid leave, that decision is yours. Whilst consistency is the watch word in dealing with staff, this really is one case where ‘one size does not fit all’. The HR Dept can help you develop a policy that fits your company.
Remember grief has a process and it affects everyone differently. Simply put, you cannot rush it. Some people find being at work helpful, whilst others may find it only makes things worse for them. Do talk to staff and find out how they need to deal with it. A sudden or unexpected death may be particularly traumatic. If so, the shock and aftermath may take a lot longer. During this time, any support that you can offer your staff could really help them, and will pay dividends to your employment relationship down the line.
Having access to professional support and counselling via an Employee Assistance Programme is recommended. However, you choose to support your staff, make sure it’s explained in your policies, and remember that the key word that pervades all this is ‘compassion’; we can all show that in times of need.