Workers who have returned to work following the death of a loved one are not receiving enough support from their employers, new research suggests.

A new review by researchers from Canterbury Christ Church University, published in the latest edition of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) journal Policy and Practice in Health and Safety, has examined the experiences of bereaved workers returning to work and the support they receive from managers.

The review shows that while various employers tried to show sympathy and flexibility to bereaved employees, others were found to be less responsive, with certain areas of workplace support being reported as “insufficient”.

Several studies reported that there was no acknowledgement of the difficulties following bereavement that they faced.

Staff described struggling to cope with potentially stressful and demanding workplace situations, such as being required to focus in work meetings soon after experiencing a loss.

Mary Ogungbeje, Occupational Safety and Health Research Manager at IOSH, said, “In workplaces there may be a lack of guidance on how employers could support their employees during the grieving period and the return to work process. Managers can struggle to bring the subject up and may avoid the topic out of fear of saying something insensitive.

“It is important managers understand how an employee is feeling after returning to work. Both an organisation and the individual employee can benefit from having good policies in place. Being able to use discretion, such as providing the option to work from home, flexible working hours, and reviewing workloads and deadlines, empowers managers to be able to best support the bereaved employee”.

Last reviewed 15 April 2019