Bereaved employees need help cutting red tape—and are not getting it

4 min read

A powerful way to improve employee well-being is by helping them eliminate time-consuming, complex, and frustrating bureaucratic tasks from their lives.

For health care issues, this is called "benefits navigation" or "care advocacy." Focusing on benefits and health care is an excellent step to take, since there is no shortage of red tape in the medical world.

But dedicating this concept only to benefits and health care is missing a major opportunity to transform employee well-being.

Because of cultural taboos around talking about death and its aftermath, employees are often taken by surprise by the depth and breadth of what is expected of them after a loved one dies. This makes their need for guidance and support all the more urgent.

Bereaved employees face an overwhelming amount of administrative, financial, and legal tasks. By providing meaningful, personalized support through this process, trust and gratitude can grow along with productivity.

Navigation and advocacy: why it matters

Navigation and advocacy are a priority for employers seeking new benefits, according to the recent Vendor Survey conducted by WTW, a global advisory, broking, and solutions company.

And WTW’s findings show that mental health and well-being solutions remain key areas of focus for 2024—with navigation and advocacy prioritized along with employees’ mental and physical health.

In terms of employee well-being, 30% ranked mental health as the top priority, 22% ranked general well-being first, and 14% said navigation and advocacy is their No. 1 priority.

The strain of paperwork and administrative responsibilities is significant, especially since employees often must accomplish these tasks during traditional work hours.

Empathy’s Cost of Dying Report showed that settling a loved one’s affairs took 13 months and cost more than $12,000, on average—and 76% said their performance or status at work was harmed after loss.

Settling a loved one’s affairs is like a second job for bereaved employees. By cutting through red tape to ease this burden, employers give them time and energy back, and they can more easily focus on their work.

The challenges of loss

In the days, weeks, and months after a loved one dies, an employee will need to deal with dozens of agencies, companies, and other organizations simply to meet the legal requirements of settling their affairs.

For instance, experts recommend families obtain 20-30 official copies of the death certificate from the county coroner because it will be required for so many transactions. And every account their loved one held—from their bank account to their Netflix—requires a different process to be shut down.

This is just one area where meaningful support can make all the difference to a bereaved employee, potentially saving hours of time. As time goes on, they will need to:

  • Clear out their loved one’s house, one of the most emotionally and physically challenging tasks of loss.

  • Guide the estate through the court-mandated process of probate (which is especially challenging if they are the executor).

  • Deal with creditors, who may barrage the family with phone calls and push the limits of the law to get repaid.

  • Pay their final taxes, and work with the IRS to resolve any issues.

Providing the most effective bereavement care

Because of the complexity of the bereavement experience, there are many ways that meaningful support can make a difference to employees.

Just as care advocacy can help employees maximize their benefit plans, dedicated bereavement care offers deep and comprehensive expertise to guide employees through the aftermath of loss.

Dedicated bereavement care creates a place where an employee’s experience of loss is understood, and their needs can be anticipated. Since bereaved employees often feel isolated and alone in their grief and in the challenges they face, this is a powerful lifeline of support.

With a service like Empathy’s, a bereaved employee can get tasks done more quickly, using tools for obituary writing, shutting down accounts, and navigating probate. And they get personalized, step-by-step guidance on everything from grief to inheritance issues and financial regulations.

Another way to offer employees support is to vet professionals for them—since many bereaved employees are managing a team outside of the office.

Finding and hiring professionals is time-consuming and draining. For this reason, care advocacy for bereaved employees may also look like a referral service for professionals like:

  • Estate and probate lawyers

  • Financial advisors

  • CPAs

  • Estate sale professionals

  • Property management 

  • Junk removal 

  • Home cleaning and landscaping

  • Child care 

  • Pet care 

  • Meal delivery services

However the support is offered, applying the concepts of benefits navigation and care advocacy to the bereavement experience is a powerful way to improve employee well-being.

After loss, bereaved employees are largely on their own and feel intense pressure to get "back to normal." Right now, that is so much harder than it has to be.

With smart, effective bereavement care, employees who are struggling to be there for their families and their coworkers will get back precious time and energy precisely when they need it.