Employees could be missing out on crucial bereavement support

Employees could be missing out on vital bereavement support from their employer, according to research from chapter three of MetLife UK’s The Last Word: Tackling the death and funeral planning taboo report.

Almost a third (31%) of employees say they aren’t aware of any support provided by their employer when it comes to the passing of a loved one. And this number rises to 35% when it comes to the support offered to families should they pass away.

Even for the employers who may be offering their employees support for them should a loved one pass away, or for their families should they pass – employees say they simply don’t understand it or how to access it.

When it comes to the support being offered to employees when a loved one passes, just 17% know and understand what it includes. Whilst 16% understands there’s support offered, but not what it entails or how to access it and 15% say their employer doesn’t offer any support.

When it comes to the support being offered to employee’s loved ones when they pass, just 16% know and understand what it includes. Whilst the same number (16%) understands there’s support offered, but not what it entails or how to access it and 18% say their employer doesn’t offer any support.

Employees say they’d value the following measures most following a bereavement:

  • I was given some paid time off - 32%
  • My employer was supportive, and I could take up to 2 weeks to grieve- 19%
  • My colleagues offered their support - 19%
  • My employer was very supportive, and I could take as much time as I needed - 17%
  • My employer checked in with me regularly - 17%
  • I was given unpaid time off - 12%
  • I was offered additional support i.e. counselling - 10%
  • I was directed to additional support offered through our employee benefit scheme - 9%
  • I was offered very minimal support (up to 3 days to grieve) - 8%
  • I wasn’t given any time off - 7%


Adrian Matthews, Head of Employee Benefits at MetLife UK said: “The loss of a loved one is hugely upsetting. And people often need support. This can come in all different shapes and sizes, from paid time off, to counselling to support from colleagues. More often that not, employers offer support to employees, but this isn’t always widely known. So, there is a need for employers to increase awareness of what support is available to employees both to facilitate take-up of any support on bereavement and to eliminate the risk of employees wrongly believing their employer offers less support than what is already on offer.

“Providing holistic emotional and practical support that employees and their loved ones need during such a challenging time can go a long way to helping, particularly in the early stages of the grieving process. Employers have the unique opportunity to be the ones to lead the way and provide this critical support, when employees may need it most.  

“At MetLife, we feel passionately that employees should have access to practical and emotional support. Through our latest Group Life offering, we offer 1.4 million UK employees cover by MetLife access to our Funeral Concierge Services through our partnership with Everest. This gives them support in considering, planning, navigating, and carrying out funeral planning, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year as well as grief counselling.”

Mark Wood, Chairman of Everest UK added: “Despite the fact that death is a part of life, there is very little conversation about the topic in the workplace. These findings illustrate the immense challenges that face employees dealing with death whilst trying to navigate the workplace. Many employers struggle to offer bereaved people the right support. And even for those that do, all too often employees are unaware of the support services available to them, which can lead to further, and avoidable, distress.

“It is important that employers make a concerted effort to create safe environments for employees to discuss their challenges relating to a bereavement. As companies begin to broaden the range of benefits available to their employees, including funeral concierge services, mental health support and specialised benefits managers, so too will the conversation they have with employees around death. The more employers talk about death and bereavement, and prepare for its impacts, the easier the process becomes for grieving employees.”