Bereavement during employment in Higher Education (UK): 2023 Survey Report

Borgstrom, Erica; Harris, Claire A.; Jones, Kerry and Mallon, Sharon (2023). Bereavement during employment in Higher Education (UK): 2023 Survey Report. The Open University, Milton Keynes.


Very little is known about the bereavement experiences of staff in Higher Education Institutes (HEIs), despite bereavement being a common experience and one that can impact both one’s wellbeing and work performance. Members of Open Thanatology at the Open University surveyed staff across universities, open to all levels and roles, to find out more about staff knowledge of their institutions’ policies and their own bereavement experiences. A total of 539 responses were received within a three-week period in early 2023; over 70% of those who responded had experienced at least one bereavement whilst working. This document reports descriptive statistics based on the survey findings. Topics covered include: the ease of understanding any available policy, if workload was covered in their absence, sufficiency of leave period, and support from line managers and colleagues. The survey, and related reports such as this, set the scene for generating improvements within the sector for university employers to become more compassionate and champion staff wellbeing. On page 17 we provide our five recommendations for HEIs to improve workplace experiences of bereavement.

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