Bereaved workers 'failed by firms'

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Bereaved people in Britain are being "failed" by a lack of support in the workplace, a charity has warned.

The National Council for Palliative Care (NCPC) called on employers to do more to support workers who have lost a loved one after a poll found that almost a third who had been bereaved in the last five years did not feel they were treated with compassion by their bosses.
Four-fifths of the 4,000 people polled said that workers should be legally entitled to paid bereavement leave.

And more than half said they would consider leaving their job if their bosses did not provide proper support if someone close to them died.

The NCPC, an umbrella charity for organisations involved in end-of-life and hospice care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, called for all employers to ensure they have an up-to-date bereavement policy.

In a new report, it also called for the Government to commission a national review of employment practice and bereavement, which would explore the feasibility of minimum statutory bereavement leave.

"Employers have an important role to play by being compassionate and having a bereavement policy in place,"said Eve Richardson, chief executive of the NCPC and the Dying Matters Coalition.

"They should also ensure that they support their managers so that they are confident in having sensitive discussions about end-of-life issues with their staff.

"It is also often the little things that matter and help make a difference, such as kind words from a manager or a card to say we are thinking of you.

"With the number of people dying each year set to increase there's never been a more important time to get bereavement support right, both in the workplace and throughout society."

Dawn Chaplin, co-founder of the National Bereavement Alliance, added: "Learning to live with the loss of someone close is one of the most painful experiences we can encounter, and society's response often makes it even harder.

"There's an urgent need to improve access to bereavement services, and to ensure that people who have been bereaved are not ignored or left isolated."

Frances O'Grady, general secretary of union TUC, said: "While some employers are sympathetic to the needs of staff who have just lost a close family member, many others are less so, and recently bereaved employees can often find themselves having to work through this deeply upsetting time.

"Rather than simply relying on the goodwill of employers to do the right thing, ministers should be giving people a legal right to paid time away from work when there has been a death in the family.

"Coping with the sudden loss of a loved one is traumatic enough without having to worry about work too, and it would be far better for everyone if bereaved workers were allowed proper time to grieve and to come to terms with their loss away from the workplace."

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