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Loss and grief in the workplace: What can we learn from the literature?

Margaret O'Connor (School of Nursing & Midwifery, Monash University, Frankston, Australia)
Jennifer Watts (Centre for Health Economics, Monash University, Clayton, Australia)
Melissa Bloomer (School of Nursing & Midwifery, Monash University, Frankston, Australia)
Kevin Larkins (Palliative Care Victoria, Torquay, Australia)

International Journal of Workplace Health Management

ISSN: 1753-8351

Publication date: 29 June 2010



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.


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.


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.


The paper compares Australian and international literature about workplace supports and provides an overview of the issues arising.



O'Connor, M., Watts, J., Bloomer, M. and Larkins, K. (2010), "Loss and grief in the workplace: What can we learn from the literature?", International Journal of Workplace Health Management, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 131-142.



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