Written by Adrian Matthews, Head of Employee Benefits at MetLife UK
Marie Curie’s National Day of Reflection takes place this year on 23rdMarch and is an opportunity to remember loved ones no longer with us.
Everyone’s experience of grief is different, but for many it is a painful and upsetting process that takes time to come to terms with. It can have a knock-on effect into every aspect of an individual’s lifestyle, including their work. In fact, over 50% of people say they would leave their job if they were offered no bereavement support. That’s why it’s incredibly important for employers to support their employees so they feel able to reach out to those around them, understand the support in place and have honest and open discussions that help the grief process.
Adrian Matthews, Head of Employee Benefits at MetLife UK, shares his thoughts on how employers can put the right support in place 24/7 so it is available should it be needed.
1. Have the right support in place and communicate benefits clearly
As an employer, it is essential you have the right benefits package to support your employees in times of need. National Reflection Day provides a timely reminder to check your offering, understand what it provides and to whom, communicate this to employees and ensure that line managers know the tools they have available to support those in their team.
Within a group benefits package you will find a host of services available to help deal with the loss of a loved one. From an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), often available 24/7 hours a day, this can provide someone to talk to round the clock; bereavement counselling to specifically focus on this difficult time; or funeral concierge services which help support with the practical aspects of funeral planning, negotiating costs and providing guidance and advice to the individual and their family. Collectively this is a very comprehensive package of support and can really help provide individuals with the time and support they need to grieve – which will be different for everyone. The first step is understanding the support in place and ensuring that employees clearly understand both the support available and how to access it if they need to.
2. Encourage your employees to understand the support available
Understanding that individuals are not in this alone and that there are millions of other people navigating grief is important. There are many websites, groups and podcasts that can help guide those struggling through difficult periods, so that they don’t feel alone. Simply signposting these types of resources at key opportunities throughout the year ensure an ongoing stream of support. Birthdays and anniversaries can occur all year round and remembering a loved one can be triggered at any time, often by the smallest of things. It’s important that communication and support is ongoing.
3. Increasing the sense of purpose
Having group protection in place is very important, but employers need to also think about what else they can provide over and above this to help further enrich the lives of employees and give them a greater sense of purpose. Our recent research2 shows that 78% of those surveyed felt that people who live their purpose at work feel more committed to the company they work for. Publicising opportunities for employees to fulfil their own purpose at work, such as volunteering, or community events will ultimately help create a sense of community spirit and a valuable support network to others in need.
Our recent partnership with Winston’s Wish, the child bereavement charity, reiterates our sharp focus on supporting those both inside and outside the business. Through the partnership, MetLife UK will work closely with the charity’s Hove branch on its fundraising efforts and ongoing ‘Growing Hope Project’. It helps bereaved primary school children with their grief by creating a relaxing ‘Hope Garden’ away from the classroom where children and their teachers and/or care givers can reflect and talk about their experience of grief and loss. A host of volunteers, including employees at MetLife, offer their time to maintain or prepare the garden and outside area for schools.
More details on National Day of Reflection:
National Day of Reflection is an opportunity to remember loved ones no longer with us, support people who are grieving, and connect with each other. There will be a minute’s silence at noon, a nationwide network of Walls of Reflection, and a series of grief-themed online programmes. There is also the option to sign up your organisation to be added to the list supporting the 2023 National Day of Reflection.