Skip to main content

Language: English / GĂ idhlig


Employee handbook

Bereavement policy

The death of a loved one, friend or colleague is a unique and traumatic event. People react in very different ways, and it is common to feel a whole variety of emotions, which can be unnerving and at times overwhelming.

We know that while many bereaved people can cope reasonably well, others struggle to manage their loss. It can leave people feeling shocked and saddened, and often, extremely vulnerable.

It is important for colleagues to feel cared for and receive support, especially in the first days and weeks following their bereavement.

This plan helps us do this by assisting colleagues who are grieving a death by:

  • supporting them to get the right support they need as quickly as possible
  • guiding managers and MSPs, in their role as employers, to discuss these matters with their team members, including those who are faced with the difficult situation of a colleague dying
  • outlining what we will do following the death of a colleague
  • signposting people to channels such as specialist external helplines and websites

And in doing so it recognises that:

  • there is no typical response to loss or timeframe for the grieving process; colleagues will require different support arrangements over both the short and long term
  • colleagues and teams feeling cared about and supported is hugely important in the healing and recovery process
  • access to external support, such as employee assistance programmes (EAP) and counselling services, can help colleagues and teams with the emotional impact of bereavement
  • bereavement training and resources can equip managers and MSPs with the tools and confidence to provide appropriate support to their team members

This plan applies to SPS staff, MSPs and their staff. It will remain under review and updated as needed.

Why have a plan?

We want to be sure colleagues are fully supported following the death of someone close to them.  To do that, we must be briefed, prepared and equipped.

A bereavement can bring up difficult feelings for all of us but particularly for those with anxiety and mental health issues.

Useful resources:

What are the symptoms of grief?

After a bereavement, it is normal for someone to experience upsetting emotions and physical symptoms. However, people experience grief differently and there is no ‘normal’ or ‘right’ way to grieve, so sensitivity to those differences should be maintained.

At the same time there are some common experiences and to know others have shared these can be helpful. Many people talk of feelings of numbness, shock, guilt and being overwhelmed, making the most ordinary daily tasks a challenge. Others may have more severe reactions ranging from anxiety to depression; and this could have the potential to interfere with both work and home life.

When someone has died under sudden or traumatic circumstances it can make these feelings worse. At times of considerable trauma, people tend to look for certainty. If certainty is not there, then this can amplify any feelings of grief and distress.

Are there compassionate leave arrangements in place?

The death of someone close can affect people in different ways. Individual circumstances, the nature of the relationship, and the required observance of different religions may vary.

As a guide, SPS staff and MSPs’ staff can take two-weeks compassionate leave through the Parliament’s paid special leave arrangements. Compassionate leave applies to MSPs. How MSPs will be paid during the period of absence is determined in accordance with the Members’ salary scheme.

Useful resources:

What support is available?

Talking about grief is an important part of getting through a bereavement, and most people will cope with help and support from family, friends or close colleagues.

However, people experiencing complicated grief are encouraged to seek professional help from their GP to obtain the right treatment for their needs. Counselling support is also available through the Parliament’s occupational health partners.

Useful resources:

What support is available for teams who are grieving a loss of their colleague?

Team discussions are designed to help those grieving a loss of a colleague in a guided environment. A qualified occupational wellbeing adviser can offer a reflective space to enable team members to share their grief and remember their friend and colleague.

It also provides an additional level of reassurance to those who may be experiencing anxiety or stress and are unsure about where to find resources and support. These sessions can help facilitate resiliency and recovery before harmful stress reactions damage health and wellbeing, family relations and work performance.

Useful resources:

How should managers and employers support team members remotely?

Continue to reach out at regular intervals. We all struggle with what is the right and wrong thing to say but avoiding the subject can compound their grief and make them feel more alone. So, stay in touch, listen, offer practical support and seek help from others if needed. Remember, some colleagues may be left without practical or emotional support at a time they need it most, especially if they live alone.

In addition to supporting team members, do not forget about yourself and the impact the bereavement may have had on you. Supporting someone else’s grief may bring up difficult feelings from your own past bereavements and that is normal. Even if you have not lost anyone close to you, you may be very fearful that it might happen.

Useful resources:

How will the Parliament be notified of a death of a colleague?

In the circumstances, there are a few ways in which we might be notified that a colleague has died. We might be contacted by their family/next of kin or told by another team member who is a close friend of the colleague who has died.

The Chief Executive’s Office will coordinate matters internally.

It is important that all colleagues ensure that up-to-date contact details for themselves and their next of kin are on the Self-service system.

Useful resources:

How will I be told?

Managers and MSPs will inform the immediate team first. It is advisable not to share how the person died without consent from the family/next of kin. They will then identify other colleagues who may be affected to let them know and liaise with the Chief Executive’s Office to produce a communication to the wider organisation.

We ask colleague to respect the feelings and privacy of the family, particularly on social media.

What support is available to immediate family members?

The telephone counselling service offered as part of the Employee Assistance Programme is available to colleagues’ immediate family members.

The Deputy Chief Executive will provide support to the next of kin to deal with the practical arrangements including final salary and pension arrangements.

Useful resources:

Useful Contacts and Signposting

Lots of organisations have specialist support and guidance available to help colleagues at this difficult time.

  • Bereavement Advice Centre  is a free helpline and web-based information service giving practical information and advice and signposting on the many issues and procedures that face us after the death of someone close
  • The Charity for Civil Servants  can help current and former SPS staff get the practical, emotional and financial support they need
  • Scottish Care, Bereavement Charter for Scotland describes what good bereavement support can look like and what difference it can make
  • Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland  have put together some resources to share how bereavement and grief may be affected by this pandemic. It covers some of the different situations and emotions bereaved people may have to deal with
  • The Samaritans  offer a 24-hour helpline support every day of the year for anyone in distress