Helping an employee affected by COVID-19

Many people and businesses across the UK have been impacted by the Coronavirus. And due to the infectious nature of the virus, you may well find that employees in your business have, unfortunately, either had the virus themselves or suffered a bereavement as a result.

It’s just as important as it’s ever been to support your employees through this, as it may have come as a shock and they’ve not been able to say their goodbyes properly. This article aims to provide some useful support and links on where to get additional information and help for you, your business and your employees.

Make sure you’ve reviewed your bereavement policy

For some smaller businesses, this may not have been something that you previously considered. But having a policy in place will help detail what the process is, from how you manage absence, support you offer and pay. You’ll need to review this in light of COVID-19 and if you don’t have a policy in place, new statutory provisions will automatically apply.

Provide immediate support

Everyone is affected differently by grief and so the level of support an employee needs, will differ from person to person. Make sure there is support within your business to allow for individuals to be able to talk about their situation, should they wish to do so. Point them to external resources such as counselling and helplines – it might be worth considering an Employee Assistance Programme.

You’ll need to understand whether they are happy for colleagues to be made aware of their situation, or whether they want to keep this private.

If the employee has lost a family member or dependant, you should consider offering compassionate leave. There’s no statutory compassionate leave in the UK, so you’ll need to review your company policy as to how much time you normally allow off and whether this is paid leave. It’s important to consider how much time they’ll need off to grieve and arrange mourning rituals.

Managing a return to work

It’s advisable that you work with the employee to agree a plan to return to work. Depending on the individual, a phased return to work may be appropriate, for others, they’ll be happy to return as normal. Either way, ensuring they feel supported in the short and long term will be just as important as the individual navigates through the first year of anniversaries.

There’s plenty of support available for both businesses and individuals, particularly focussed on COVID-19 and the impacts on people’s lives. Below are some useful links:

The Government website has a section on ‘Support if someone dies’

Cruse Bereavement Care provides advice, guidance and support for those experiencing bereavement

The National Bereavement Partnership COVID-19 Hub provides a platform for associated practical advice services, support assistance and information to all those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) have a range of guides and resources for businesses.