HR considerations for Prince Philip’s funeral

Prince Philip's funeral

As Prince Philip’s funeral is due to take place in the afternoon on Saturday 17 April, we take a look at how organisations can manage staff who are working on the day.

Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband of 73 years, died on Friday 9 April aged 99. The death of a senior member of the Royal Family is largely unchartered territory for many organisations, and many may be considering the best way they can support staff who wish to watch the funeral, or mark the occasion in some way, as it occurs on Saturday.

This could be difficult for organisations to approach. Reactions to Prince Philip’s death will vary and balancing the expectations, and personal opinions, of employees may be hard to manage. There is also a mental health element to consider; in a country that remains in the midst of a global pandemic, the loss of a public figure like Prince Philip may have further impacted on staff already dealing with bereavement.

So, with the funeral service currently scheduled to take place around 3pm, and with the BBC and other radio stations set to provide coverage both before and after this event, what should organisations bear in mind?

Is the day of the funeral a Bank Holiday?

The government has confirmed that Prince Philip’s funeral will not be a Bank Holiday. This means that usual allowances for staff to take time off work during a Bank Holiday, if applicable, will not be required.

Should staff be allowed to take time off?

It is entirely down to the organisation if they permit staff to take time off to watch the funeral. After all, business need will come first, especially if the organisation has faced difficulties as a result of the pandemic.

Staff requesting leave this week for Saturday will likely go against the notice period that organisations usually ask for and, indeed, permitting some staff to take leave over others could result in accusations of favouritism. This is especially the case when taking into account staff who do not want to request time off on short notice for the funeral, but may want to for another public event, such as the lifting of lockdown restrictions, at a later date.

That said, it should be remembered that this is a highly unusual event and could be important to certain members of staff. To this end, it is advisable that the organisation clearly outlines to staff if they will be permitted time off to watch the funeral and how this will work. For example, requests for leave could be processed on a first come, first served basis, or alternatively the organisation may consider closing earlier for staff to watch the funeral from 3pm.

The government is currently asking people not to gather in large crowds for the event due to current Covid-19 restrictions. Whilst it is not usually the business of an organisation to respond to what staff do in their personal time, arguably it may be advisable to remind staff of this for their own safety and that of their colleagues upon their return to work.

What if the organisation does not wish to let staff have time off?

In this situation, the organisation could consider letting staff listen to radio commentary if they choose to, albeit with the consideration that not all employees may want to listen to this, so a compromise may need to be reached. If their work allows, staff could also be permitted to mark the two minutes’ silence that is also expected.

An employee who does not wish to listen to radio commentary could be permitted to listen to their own music, with headphones, if possible.

Responding to staff disagreements

As mentioned above, not all staff will respond to Prince Philip’s death in the same way and organisations should be ready for this. To this end, any action taken to mark the occasion should be optional, and staff should not be penalised for taking part, or not.

Employees should also be reminded of acceptable conduct in the workplace, that it is important to respect each other’s views, and that poor behaviour directed towards colleagues will not be tolerated. If any such conduct does take place, the organisation should be prepared to conduct a full investigation and implement usual disciplinary procedures.