Loss and grief in the workplace
What can we learn from the literature?
School of Nursing & Midwifery, Monash University, Frankston, Australia
Centre for Health Economics, Monash University, Clayton, Australia
School of Nursing & Midwifery, Monash University, Frankston, Australia, and
Palliative Care Victoria, Torquay, Australia
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to determine how Australian workplaces, their managers and
employees respond to those who are grieving at work, as a result of chronic or terminal illness, or
caring for those with chronic or terminal illness. The review draws on Australian and relevant
international literature and seeks to answer this question.
Design/methodology/approach – A literature review was undertaken in preparation for an
Australian study examining workplace supports for people who are grieving – because they are
carers, have experienced a death, or are balancing their own illness with their work. Using a range of
search terms, the literature was searched for relevant work between 1980 and 2010. The search found
examples of workplace supports throughout the world and some developing Australian literature.
Findings – Despite illness and death occurring at any stage of a person’s life, there is little research
that identiﬁes workplace issues associated with grief and loss. And while workplace legislation allows
for minimal supports, there was evidence that some workplaces have begun to offer ﬂexibility for
work life balance.
Practical implications – Effective workplace supports will involve individual and workplace
responses, but also require legislative approaches in order to effect broad-based system change.
Originality/value – The paper compares Australian and international literature about workplace
supports and provides an overview of the issues arising.
Keywords Death, Workplace, Business policy, Quality of life, Interpersonal relations, Australia
Paper type Literature review
When people are grieving, every aspect of their life is affected – including their work
life. To date, little research has been done to assist in identifying the issues associated
with grief and loss in the workplace even though illness or death, the major causes of
grief, can touch a person at any stage of their life.
Australia has an ageing population and a shrinking workforce. As a result it is
likely that more Australian workers will come into contact with illness or grief in the
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
The authors thank Ms Mary Tehan, Project Ofﬁcer, Palliative Care Victoria, for her authorship of
the original report.
The Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing and The William Buckland
Foundation provided funding for related project.
Loss and grief in
International Journal of Workplace
Vol. 3 No. 2, 2010
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited