Background There is a significant price to pay for organisations that fail to take seriously the challenges involved in supporting grieving employees in the workplace, including loss of productivity, sickness absence, and low morale. The purpose of this study was to look at how social service organisations implement their bereavement policies and support bereaved staff.
Aim The study aimed to raise awareness of current issues and practices in the implementation of bereavement policies and the management and support of grieving employees on their return to work.
Methods A generic qualitative method was used and recruitment of six participants from social service organisations within New Zealand was undertaken. Non-probability purposive sampling was used. Data collection was via email interviews.
Results While New Zealand employees are legally entitled to three days paid bereavement leave, how flexible and supportive employers were willing to be beyond that varied. Participants felt out of their depth in dealing with grieving employees and lack of training around grief and loss meant a heavy reliance on external sources of support. The study also exposed a possible lack of understanding in relation to cultural mourning rituals.
Conclusion This study uncovered several areas of concern relating to organisational attitudes towards grieving employees and their ability to adequately support bereaved staff on their return to work. It poses the question for future research as to whether organisations can afford not to care and serves as a springboard for examining the detrimental consequences of neglecting the realities of loss.
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