Co-op introduces enhanced flexible compassionate leave

Co-op increases pay for 33,000 employees

Retail organisation Co-op has launched a refreshed compassionate leave policy ahead of Dying Matters Awareness Week, which runs from 8 to 14 May, to support its 57,000 employees when experiencing the death or serious illness of someone close to them.

The policy, which was launched today (3 May), doubles its previous policy of five days of compassionate leave to 10, available from day one of employment.

It has also introduced flexibility around when leave can be taken, in order to tailor support and give managers the discretion to allow for further days to be taken based on individual circumstances.

The policy also emphasised that leave allowances should be based on the closeness of the employee’s bond, rather than simply the relationship. This means that compassionate leave is not limited to immediate family, reflecting the diverse nature of people’s close relationships.

Co-op made the decision to enhance its compassionate leave following feedback from employees, who wanted the business to facilitate better conversations around bereavement and death in the workplace. It also followed a recommendation by the UK Commission on Bereavement, which said employees should receive two weeks’ pay entitlement which covers all close relationships.

Co-op has also launched a range of resources around bereavement and grief, including a support guide for managers, a pack for affected employees, short practical guides around specific circumstances such as returning to work and talking to someone who has been bereaved, and specific supports relating to terminal illness and anticipatory grief. These resources were developed in partnership with charity organisation Cruse Bereavement Support.

In addition, Co-op commissioned YouGov research which found that 62% of employees think bereavement should be treated as a workplace issue, while 56% said bereavement leave was an important issue.

The organisation made the policy publicly available, in order to encourage other employers to introduce flexible compassionate leave.

Claire Costello, chief people and inclusion officer at Co-op, said: “Here at Co-op, 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.”

Steven Wibberley, chief executive at Cruse Bereavement Support, 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 more grieving people are treated with kindness and respect by their employees at the times they really need it.”