Loss and grief have impacted everyone over the past two years, and companies need to provide leadership and understanding

The past two years have been incredibly hard. Many people have lost loved ones to COVID-19, or have had their personal lives turned upside down as a result of lockdowns, limited access to medical facilities and ongoing health problems. As a result, employees are struggling to find a balance in the workplace as they deal with complex grief and emotions while trying to fulfil their roles and responsibilities. For Nicol Myburgh, Head: HCM Business Unit at CRS Technologies, organisations have a role to play in supporting and guiding employees through these difficult times.

“Human resources should have grief management and employee support high on their agenda right now,” he says. “The company needs to create a framework that’s designed to help people manage their emotions within the workplace and find a healthy way out of grief.”

The first step is to acknowledge that an employee is experiencing grief and to offer assistance to them. This can be in the form of days off work, providing access to a grief counsellor, or working with a specialist company that handles complex situations and emotions. Every one of these steps helps the employee navigate a challenging personal experience by giving them the space and support they need.

“You can work with a company like iCAS or Solace that offers employees assistance with grief counsellors and isn’t expensive for the company, says Myburgh. “This allows people to then engage with psychologists, and involve their family members if needed, so they can figure out how to approach the future and their next steps. This is a very powerful way for a company to help out in times of grief.”

As there are no clear guidelines for companies, the best steps would be to err on the side of compassion. Legally, if a death of a direct family member occurs, employees are entitled to three days of leave a year, and are expected to provide proof, such as a death certificate. Different industries have different rules so it’s often down to the company to make the final decision around how grief, leave and support are handled.

“While there’s a limited amount of time mandated by the government for compassionate leave, most companies give employees immediate access to their annual leave or give them time off without touching this pool of leave at all,” concludes Myburgh. “This is the most compassionate approach, and is one that can be supported by additional services such as counselling or access to grief services.”

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