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Wellbeing Case Study - Bereavement Leave

Managing wellbeing appropriately within in the workplace can have countless positive outcomes; happier colleagues leading to higher levels of productivity; a positive morale improving both attendance and turnover and, on the whole, contributes to a better place to work. Failure to support colleagues with their wellbeing however can have a hugely negative impact on a variety of factors such as your organisations reputation, a financial cost and a loss of what could have been long standing, hard working colleagues.

Wellbeing Case Study

Mark Hill worked for a social care provider, supporting patients with dementia and had worked for the organisation for around 15 years with a squeaky-clean HR record.

Concerns had been raised by staff that Mark was coming into work late and was often disengaged whilst at work. The manager informed Mark he was under investigation via letter; no conversation was had with Mark.

Shortly after Mark was informed of this, he called in sick and self-certified for a week. Mark was off sick for a period of 2 months in the end, covered by a sick note citing stress.

The manager failed to contact Mark whilst he was off sick, only towards the end of the sick note to ask when he was returning. Mark attended his first shift back and was asked to support a lady he hadn’t supported previously and was expected to carry this support out without being provided with time to read and understand their care plan.

Two days after Mark returned, the lady in Mark’s care suffered a choking incident whereby she had not had her food finely chopped as stated in her care plan. This was reported by another employee who was present, and Mark was sent another letter with this incident added onto his list of allegations.

Mark failed turn up to work or get in touch with the manager for the following week.

Mark then emailed his manager to advise his father had been terminally ill and had now passed away. The manager offered their condolences and advised of how long he is able to take off as bereavement leave via the policy which was 7 days.

7 days passed and Mark did not get in touch.

The manager tried various ways to communicate with Mark but had no joy. After a week, the manager again added ‘failure to turn up to work’ on their investigation letter and re-sent it.

On receipt of this letter, Mark felt he had no option but to resign due to the stress this was putting him under whilst suffering the death of his father.

Can you spot the failures here?

Firstly, with a squeaky clean record of 15 years with no disciplinary concerns, this employee would certainly be someone you would be looking to keep hold of if you can; so when a change in behaviour crops up out of the blue, a supportive chat can go a long way. Who knows, if the Manager grabbed the employee for a conversation to try and understand why they were coming to work late and not themselves whilst at work, the Manager could have prevented the further performance concern, which put someone else at risk and could have retained a reliable staff member.

Reasonable Adjustments

A simple temporary adjustment such as putting in place a change to their working hours, reducing their hours or amending their duties could have lifted the weight off the employee’s shoulders and reduced their stress levels, enabling them to feel supported and able to perform their duties.

Contacting employees whilst off sick

When employees are off sick long term, the main aim from a manager should be to support them while they are off, establishing the frequency and best time to contact which suits both the organisation and the employee.

Keeping in touch helps the manager understand how long they are likely to be off and can enable the manager to provide cover in this time, but this also shows the employee they are valued and they are missed. Being off work can feel very lonely at times and the return can feel daunting – therefore maintaining this contact provides that reassurance they need.

Phased return

No return to work meeting was held with his employee to welcome them back into the workplace but also to advise of any changes, and any reasonable adjustments that can be made.

This employee was expected to return to work after having two months off and care for a resident they had not previously met or reviewed their support needs. This is putting both the employee and the resident at risk, which resulted in harm coming to the resident and the employee being put under further investigation.

There is mitigating circumstances here whereby the employee was not provided with adequate time to review any workplace updates and therefore the incident could have been prevented, and thus the employee may not have gone off for the following week.

Support for employees when they are going through a bereavement

Aside from advising on the time an employee is entitled to have off work when they lose a family member, the manager could have signposted to any internal support helplines available and established a time to get back in touch to check if they were ready to return.

When Mark didn’t get in touch, no attempts were made to contact a Next of Kin, and no consideration or discretion was given towards his circumstances when issuing another investigation letter. Don’t be afraid to loosen your approach by using your discretion; every situation is different and can’t always be aligned with your policies.

Losing a valued member of staff

There are multiple failures throughout this scenario whereby the employee has been let down by their manager, resulting in a loss in confidence for the employee and a huge loss to the organisation, which could have been prevented had the manager put themselves in the employee’s shoes.

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