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Co-op introduces flexible compassionate leave

Co-op, the consumer co-operative, has launched a new compassionate leave policy offering more flexibility and paid leave.

Employees can take up to 10 days paid leave when needed at any time, regardless of the relationship to the person who has died.

The policy gives emphasis to the ‘closeness of the bond’ that has been lost, meaning the persons been bereaved doesn’t have to be an immediate family member. 

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Claire Costello, chief people and inclusion officer at Co-op, said the flexibility of the policy hopes to positively impact the health and wellbeing of colleagues at a difficult time. 

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Whilst many colleagues cope well during a time of bereavement and grief, others will struggle to manage their loss and this may have an impact on their work. 

“Therefore by allowing colleagues paid leave during this difficult time they can take the appropriate amount of time away from work without having to worry about financial constraints.”   

Costello said the policy is in line with modern relationships, which traditional bereavement policies may overlook. 

She added: “The world has changed, as have the relationships we have with other people.  We don’t place restrictions on the type of relationship a person had with the person who has passed away to be able to access compassionate leave.  

“We know from listening to our colleagues that the traditional approach for leave for immediate family doesn’t adequately provide support.” 

Costello said that although the policy relies on managers’ discretion to make the right decisions for each situation, they are not expected to be experts in grief. 

She said: “Their role is to acknowledge a colleague’s loss in a sensitive way; make it clear how they will be supported and to outline what help is available.  

“Having a clear policy helps with setting a consistent minimum standard that is easier to deliver, therefore helping managers to take the right approach.”   

Michelle Sequeira, UK diversity, equity and inclusion consulting leader for consulting firm Mercer said bereavement policies must be adaptable to each situation. 

Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “Grief knows no rules. Removing the requirement for the deceased to be an immediate relation provides a more inclusive approach and ensures that employees can grieve their loved ones regardless of technicality.” 

She said clear signposting is particularly important with bereavement policies, due to the distress the employee will already be in. 

“Trawling through the intranet to find the relevant information will only add to the stress,” she added. 

Lou Campbell, employee counsellor and programmes director of employee mental health company Wellbeing Partners said employers also need to look at the wider experience of bereavement. 

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “Managers can support their employees by talking to them, highlighting support that is available and ensuring that they are not overwhelmed by their workload, redistributing work as necessary.   

“It should also be part of the bereavement response to encourage employees to leave work on time and make it a policy not to contact them with work matters or emails outside of working hours.  

“These changes and emphasis on flexibility will help employees navigate this most profound of human experiences.”