Marking Marie Curie’s National Day of Reflection

Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD

A chance to reflect: one year on since the first UK lockdown.

On the National Day of Reflection, Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD, remembers the people we have all lost over the last year.

Today, 23 March 2021, marks one year to the day since the first UK-wide coronavirus lockdown was implemented. The National Day of Reflection offers an opportunity for us to come together, reflect, and remember those we have lost over the last year, whether family members, friends, or colleagues.

The pandemic has prompted us all to reflect on our lives, our relationships, our work, and our own personal priorities, and made us appreciate the people we have around us even more.

During the pandemic, many thousands of people have tragically lost their lives through the virus, but also through other circumstances. Today is a day to remember that behind every statistic is a human lifea unique storyand ultimately a grieving family and community.

It’s likely that almost every organisation and community will have directly experienced or been connected to a loss over the last year. This includes us at the CIPD, and I know many of you will also have personally experienced a bereavement during the pandemic. The impacts of a bereavement are never easy, and the grief it causes can feel overwhelming and be long lasting.

That is why, at times like these, it has never been more important that we as communities and organisations come together. We need to step up and support one another where we can, and it’s vital that as organisations we play our part, making sure we’re doing all we can to look after our people.

Bereavement: the role of employers

Bereavement is something every individual deals with differently. It is a hugely personal experience, and organisations need to be conscious of this by giving their people the time, space and flexibility to grieve in a way that is most appropriate to them.

This is especially important at the moment, with the pandemic creating a unique set of circumstances around how people will experience bereavement. With restricted funerals, and less face-to-face contact, the ways we are able to grieve and comfort each other have changed. Organisations need to show understanding and empathy, and offer support and flexibility where needed. Even small adjustments to the ways someone worksor being able to take time off at short notice could make a huge difference to their ability to cope.

Everyone is feeling more fatigued and more anxious in these difficult times. It’s good to see how much more people’s mental wellbeing is being seen as a critical business agenda, and bereavement is very much part of this as well. Employee assistance programs are an important element but being able to speak openly with colleagues and line managers about concerns, and when people are struggling to cope is an essential part of supportive cultures and compassionate management.  

See the CIPD’s guide for employers on compassionate bereavement support.

Looking ahead to a brighter future

Today’s National Day of Reflection serves as a timely reminder of the huge challenges we’ve faced over the last 12 months, individually and collectively. While the task of overcoming the pandemic isn’t accomplished yet, with a quickly progressing vaccination programme and the gradual and safe re-opening of our society, there is light at the end of the tunnel. As we look to the future and life starts to return to some normality, there are many things for us all to learn from this crisis. Putting wellbeing at the heart of all our organisations is one of those things. Support, compassion and respect for each other should be central to thriving workplace cultures everywhere.

The CIPD will be marking Marie Curie’s National Day of Reflection by holding a minutes silence at 12:00 GMT.

You can find out more about Marie Curie’s National Day of Reflection, as well as employer resources here.

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