On Wednesday, a pleasant afternoon selecting the menu for this year’s Employee Benefits Awards and Summer Party was brought to a rather abrupt conclusion as news of the terror attack in Westminster began to filter through.
Such events are always truly shocking, particularly when they occur so close to home. As demonstrated both this week, and in those to come, most, if not all, organisations will have well-planned procedures and protocols in place to deal with such an attack and its immediate aftermath. But, when it comes to an organisation’s people, how far do these plans really go? Once an employer has ascertained that all of its staff are safe or has implemented support for those caught up in such an atrocity, be it an employee themselves, a close family member or colleagues of a victim, who else should they consider?
Some affected employees may not be quite so easy to identify. An employee who may have lost a friend or more distant family members, for example, may not feel able to, or willing, to disclose as much to their employer. And, if the attack happened overseas, how many UK-based employers would think to ask if any of the workforce was impacted in any way?
According to a report published by Victim Support in November 2016, the emotional and psychological effects of terrorism are significant. However, while post-traumatic stress is relatively common among individuals who have experienced a traumatic event, not all NHS mental health trusts in England offer treatment or support. So, who should fill this gap?
While, in many cases, these are far bigger issues than employers alone should be expected to deal with, they do have a role to play in the chain of support. As well as ensuring employees are fully aware of any means of support available to them, such as workplace counselling services, and feel comfortable in accessing these, giving staff the flexibility to work around their grief and come to terms with what has occurred may make a real difference.
And this isn’t just an issue at the time of the attack. Employers should also bear in mind that anniversaries, as well as events such as related inquests or memorials, can all reopen old wounds.
Thankfully the chances of being involved in such incidences are still relatively small, but investing in such strategies will inevitably pay off should the worst occur.