This resource is part of the Hospice UK Compassionate Employers Programme and is designed for the Human Resources (HR) team.
As well as being a practical guide, it contains a series of links to places where you can find more detailed information or support if you want it.
You can find all the links on the Compassionate Employers Useful Resources section. There are companion sections for line managers and employees. These resources are intended to help organisations be prepared to support their people through personally challenging circumstances.
Over time, whatever its size, your organisation is likely to include people who are:
- living with a life-limiting or terminal illness
- caring for someone else with a life-limiting or terminal illness
- living with bereavement.
These are all personal matters which can be difficult to talk about for staff and managers alike. Each person’s circumstances are unique to them. It is up to them how much confidential information they choose to share.
A compassionate employer is a company that will help people feel confident and comfortable approaching managers and HR, knowing that they will help. As part of that, HR can help by making the relevant information easy to find, and by being ready to talk through the practical implications of the options available.
There is a lot employers can do to support people in these circumstances, such as having policies about flexible working and compassionate leave. Some employers are able to go further, with income protection schemes.
The HR team is where everyone turns for advice on the organisation’s legal responsibilities towards people dealing with life-limiting or terminal illness, or bereavement, and for details of the organisation’s own policies in these areas.
There is help available from other organisations outside of the Compassionate Employers Programme including:
- Carers and disability benefits
- Carers’ allowance
- Carer’s assessments by local council or trust.
Various organisations offer support to people living with and dealing with particular conditions and bereavement, including confidential helplines (see the useful resources section at the back of this guide).
There is also a wealth of information available on specific issues such as ‘What to do when someone dies’ on the gov.uk website.
In HR, you aren’t responsible for making employees use these services but you can help by knowing where to find this information and signposting individuals as they need it.
All of the issues discussed throughout this programme are personal and sensitive. Getting it right for staff and managers relies on good communication. It can be difficult for anyone to raise these subjects and as a manager it’s not easy to make the right response if you are taken by surprise.
HR staff themselves need to know what their organisation’s policies are, and they also need the right training to help them guide colleagues. This is a key area that the Compassionate Employers Programme can help with.
Training for managers is invaluable so that they are not caught unprepared when they need to talk to someone who has received a life-limiting or terminal diagnosis, who suddenly finds that they have caring responsibilities, or to someone who has been bereaved.
When you book training sessions through the programme, you may want to include union representatives too. Union members may turn to them for advice and they will be best placed to provide it if they are part of the organisation’s efforts to be a compassionate employer.
Your organisation will want to do everything reasonable to help your people to carry on working for as long as possible. Although inevitably, there will come a time for some when they have to leave. For example, it may be that their illness has reached a stage when they need to stop working.
When anyone leaves the organisation, you can carry out an exit interview with them. This is a chance to ask staff how well you are doing supporting people at work while they cope with challenging personal issues. What they tell you is an essential part of helping your organisation to keep learning and to keep improving.