The Co-op has unveiled a new flexible compassionate leave policy to support its 57,000 staff when someone close to them dies or becomes seriously ill.

The number of days of paid bereavement leave has doubled from five to 10 and the group’s updated policy focuses on offering flexibility so managers can consider further paid leave based on individual circumstances. 

The initiative emphasises the “closeness of the bond”, meaning the relationship with the colleague who has been bereaved does not have to be an immediate family member.

The policy will be available to staff from day one of employment.

The group is also making new resources available, including a support guide for managers about bereavement and loss, a pack for colleagues affected by grief, practical guides that offer help and advice, and specific support relating to terminal illnesses.

The policy follows the introduction of four weeks’ fully paid leave to staff who lose a child under the age of 18. The retailer hopes the scheme will encourage other companies to introduce similar policies.

Co-op chief people and inclusion officer Claire Costello said: “We want to support our colleagues when someone close to them dies or is seriously ill. We want everyone to ask for the support they need and will always handle things as sensitively as possible.

“We know that modern life can be complicated, so there are no restrictions about the relationships or situations that we give compassionate leave for. We also know that the death of someone close, or finding out about a terminal diagnosis, can affect people in different ways, so our new compassionate leave policy provides the right support to everyone.”

The retailer developed its resources with Cruse Bereavement Support.