Introduce ‘ bereavement first aiders’ in workplace, employers urged

A report by Sue Ryder has called for an open conversation about grief Credit: David Cheskin/ PA

Bereavement “first aiders” should be trained by employers to help people in the workplace who are struggling with grief, a charity has said.

Research by Sue Ryder, which provides palliative, neurological and bereavement assistance, suggests the majority of UK adults are not getting any formal support after the loss of a loved one.

The charity is calling for an “open, honest national conversation” about grief and has urged the Government to look into the availability of bereavement services.

Around seven in 10 (72%) UK adults have been bereaved at least once in the last five years, a survey by Sue Ryder suggests.

However, only 9% said they had received support, apart from that offered by families and friends.

Meanwhile, more than half (51%) of respondents fear saying the wrong thing to someone who has recently lost a loved one.

Among adults aged 18 to 34, 63% said they were worried about what to say.

The charity suggested this could be because young people are more comfortable discussing difficult topics online than in person.

A new report by Sue Ryder suggests a number of measures to improve support for the bereaved.

This includes a call for employers to consider training “bereavement first aiders” in the workplace, to give people the skills to help colleagues who want to return to work.

“Too many of us, particularly younger people, worry about getting it wrong when speaking to someone who is going through a bereavement – and we would rather say nothing than say the wrong thing,” said Heidi Travis, chief executive of Sue Ryder.

“Each and every one of us, alongside employers, healthcare professionals and the Government, all have important roles to play in the bereavement arena.

“It is an often life-changing experience which we will all experience at some point. Let us not pretend silence will make it any easier.”

The charity is also calling on the Government to commission research into the availability of bereavement support, and to work with the healthcare sector to improve awareness of the services currently offered.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Losing someone close to you can be devastating, and those who need bereavement support should have access to it through the NHS.

“Bereavement care is a key part of the provision of good end of life care as set out in the Government’s end of life care Choice Commitment.”

More than 2,000 UK adults were surveyed for the Sue Ryder report.