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Introduction to this document

Letter to bereaved employee

For obvious reasons, dealing with an employee who has suffered bereavement can be a sensitive issue. But as not all of them react in the same way, you'll have to take each situation on a case-by-case basis. In the early stages, you should write offering your condolences and explaining the position on leave. You may also wish to offer some support. Our letter can help you tackle this difficult situation.

Death of a loved one

No two employees will deal with bereavement in exactly the same way, so this type of personnel issue must always be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Some employees react by carrying on "as normal"; others take time off sick or use paid annual leave. Whilst there is no legal obligation on you to do so, many employers will offer an employee a period of compassionate leave, e.g. two or three days.

If you provide compassionate leave, such time off does not have to be paid (although you may wish to offer it). On the other hand, whatever you decide to do in these circumstances must be consistent, i.e. you shouldn't offer five days’ paid compassionate leave to one employee and nothing to another. That would be unfair.


Offer condolences 

So as soon as you hear about an employee's loss of a loved one, write to them offering your condolences and make the position clear on how any time off will be treated - this second part may seem insensitive but it prevents any misunderstandings at a later date. In addition, you should invite them to contact you if they need any help and, at the same time, indicate that somebody from the company will be in touch over the next few days. It's likely that the employee will appreciate you contacting them, but don't be offended if they don't seem like talking. 

Sadly, there is still a lot of stigma around death and grieving and it is a subject that not many people wish to talk about. But as an employer you will certainly face it at one time or another. If you require advice on how to handle a particular situation, you can contact the charity "Cruse Bereavement Care" ( Its telephone helpline offers free assistance.