Staff members may experience bereavement following the death of a close family member, friend, work colleague, more distant relative or others they know. Each of us experience grief in our own way and our needs may change over time.

Knowing what to say and do in these situations to provide support to employees and co-workers can be challenging and naturally people may feel apprehensive. 

The information below is available to support all colleagues and may be relevant to all working environments.


NES Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) - HELP

HELP is an independent advisory & counselling service delivered by Optima. It is a free and confidential service available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Speaking to a counsellor is available via the EAP helpline. For cases where it is too early to receive counselling the helpline can provide information on the practical issues you may be experiencing.

Other Support Organisations to consider:

Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland - Free Helpline 0808 802 6161 and Webchat

Samaritans - Free Helpline 116 123

National Wellbeing Hub - Free Helpline 0800 111 4191

Trainees can access Spiritual Care support in the territorial NHS Health boards while on placement there. For more information about this please initially contact your placement board directly to request the contact information for the local Spiritual Care Team. 

These resources, designed by NES, aim to help staff and managers identify some responses and actions to support bereaved colleagues, teams and themselves in the workplace. The materials include key points that are relevant to all situations, as well as more specific points that may apply during the pandemic.

Employees who are bereaved
This guidance is designed to help line managers have confidence to support employees who have experienced bereavement.

Experiencing the death of a colleague
This guidance is designed to help staff and managers identify some initial steps that may help to ensure people have an opportunity to express their grief, to mark the death in a way that feels appropriate for them and to receive the support that they need.


TALK - Coping with death and bereavement
This NHS Education for Scotland video introduces the acronym ‘TALK’ (Tell, Ask, Listen, Kindness). It encourages staff to support each other with simple strategies such as talking to your colleagues, asking how your team are doing, listening to one another and showing kindness to yourself and others

Breaking Bad News
Breaking the news that someone has died can be particularly challenging for professionals, especially where a death was sudden or unexpected. This video, produced by the Irish Hospice Foundation outlines a simple five step process to breaking bad news.

Talking and being with people who are bereaved
This NHS Education for Scotland animation suggests some things that you could do or say which might be helpful. It also suggests some things you may want to avoid.


Bereavement leave is incorporated within the NES Special Leave Policy. Key items to note are:

  • Definition
    To provide reasonable support to members of staff at times of distress due to
    the the death of a family member, dependant, close friend or colleague.
  • Entitlement
    Managers have the discretion to award paid leave of up to one working week
    in each occurrence of serious difficulty. In particularly distressing circumstances, the manager, in discussion with an appropriate member of HR, may extend this by up to a further week of paid or unpaid leave. Additional leave and entitlements are available to parent/carers suffering child bereavement - section 4.4 of NES Special Leave Policy
  • Duration Criteria
    In considering the amount of leave, the manager should take into account the specific circumstances, eg the relationship between the member of staff and the person in question, whether the member of staff has a responsibility for the estate of the deceased, the availability of other relatives or friends and the distance to be travelled in dealing with such matters. 
  • Further advice?
    Contact a member of HR by raising a ticket at