Co-op has introduced a new flexible compassionate leave policy for its 57,000 employees across the UK.
The enhanced bereavement provision entitles staff to double the paid leave allowed previously, from five to 10 days, while managers are permitted to offer extra time off on full pay at their discretion.
Launched ahead of Dying Matters Week next week (8-14 May), which aims to encourage open conversations about death and grief, the policy is effective from the first day of employment.
The convenience retailer believes the offering emphasises the “closeness of the bond” between the person who has died and the bereaved. This means it doesn’t have to be an immediate family member, since the leave also covers the death of a friend, colleague or cousin.
Claire Costello, chief people and inclusion officer at Co-op, said: “We want to support our colleagues when someone close to them dies or is seriously ill. We want everyone to ask for the support they need and will always handle things as sensitively as possible.
“We know that modern life can be complicated, so there are no restrictions about the relationships or situations that we give compassionate leave for. We also know that the death of someone close, or finding out about a terminal diagnosis, can affect people in different ways, so our new compassionate leave policy provides the right support to everyone.”
The compassionate leave policy is one of a range implemented by the company to support employee wellbeing during bereavement – including initiatives for pregnancy and baby loss, as well as parental bereavement leave – “to create a truly inclusive workplace and deliver a fairer world for colleagues”.
Following feedback from staff and the UK Commission on Bereavement’s recommendation of two weeks’ paid bereavement leave for close relationships, Co-op is also offering a number of new resources such as a bereavement support guide for managers, a pack for those affected by grief, a selection of short practical guides, and specific support for terminal illnesses.
The business created the resources with the help of bereavement charity Cruse Bereavement Support.
Steven Wibberley, the charity’s chief executive, said: “We welcome this news today that Co-op will be introducing a new bereavement leave policy that is more compassionate and flexible for their employees. At Cruse we know just how difficult it can be for many people who have to return to work immediately after the death of someone close to them. Bereavement and grief is an entirely personal experience and this refreshed policy allows for people to take the time away from work and grieve in whatever way they need.
“It’s my hope that other organisations step up and adopt this important and inspiring change from our colleagues at Co-op, so that more grieving people are treated with kindness and respect by their employees at the times that they really need it.”
Co-op introduced the policy as part of its wider pledge to support the bereaved. In 2019, it campaigned the Government to introduce the Children’s Funeral Fund to help parents with the cost of a child’s cremation or burial. In April 2020, the business also began offering four weeks of fully paid leave for employees who lose a child.