Ensuring our duty of care to staff as well as clients.

February 4, 2020   //   No Comments

SAIF thanks Paul Allcock for his thoughts.

As we reflect on 2019 it was for most funeral services a quieter than normal year. This may have resulted in many independent companies being concerned as to why their own number of funerals arranged was lower than normal. Many will have been concerned that the tactics of the various Co-operatives in opening many new branches across the country over recent years was starting to have an effect.

This,
combined with the continually growing number of new start-up businesses, will
undoubtedly have had some impact. But probably the biggest factor in 2019 was
the considerably lower number of deaths, as stated in Dignity’s
report last month that its profits were 30% down for the first three quarters
of the year.

It is
widely reported that the demands on funeral directors are ever increasing from
an ever more knowledgeable public who know what they want for their loved ones
and how they want to say their own farewells. Indeed a survey commissioned by
the NAFD claimed that on average 52 service hours was now taken to arrange a
funeral compared to 32 hours ten years ago. 

If
the time element required to arrange a funeral has indeed increased by such a
large amount, and my personal experience is that it has certainly increased,
perhaps it is just as well that each funeral company isn’t
carrying out so many funerals as perhaps they would like to or have done in the
past. If a company is doing 100 funerals a year in 2019 they are likely to be needing
to provide a staggering extra 2000 man hours compared to 2009, if these figures
are accurate.

So how do firms manage these extra demands? Well the simple answer is to increase your staffing, as one member of staff working a 40 hour week for a year works out at 2080 hours. But how can firms afford to take on a full time member of staff when the public, the media and many associated agencies are so price conscious, or even critical of the prices funeral directors already charge?

Well
I believe that the vast majority of people arranging a funeral are far more
concerned about the care of their love one, the premises and facilities that
they are kept in, and the personal service that they themselves receive, than
they are about the cost. The challenge for funeral directors is ensuring that
each funeral arranged is not only appropriate for the deceased and their
client, but just as importantly, that it is within the means of the client to
pay. That doesn’t mean that they should be directed to a
direct cremation instead of a simple full funeral service unless that is
actually an appropriate alternative.

I
think that funeral directors need to show a flexibility in what they can offer
and in the pricing of the various elements of a funeral. It stands to reason
that a direct cremation or a simple funeral service are not going to require
anywhere near the amount of work needed to provide for a funeral with a large
number attending at church, with service sheets to be produced and many flowers
to arrange and handle together with often many other elements too many to list
here.

Therefore
to retain or achieve the highest standards possible, and those expected by
industry and client alike, you may well have to employ more staff, but there is
no reason why you shouldn’t charge appropriately for the demands thrust
upon you by your client. Good quality service and care comes at a cost. There
would be far more criticism of funeral directors if we weren’t
providing a high standard of service than there ever has been over perceived
excessive charges.

The
importance of ensuring that funeral staff are not having to work excessively
long hours or deal with too many traumatic situations cannot be emphasised
enough. This must be seen as a reason to charge fairly, not excessively. We all
have a duty of care to be fair to our own staff as well as to our clients, for
both parties’
wellbeing.

Paul Allcock

Note – SAIF provides SAIFSupport, a free counselling service for members.

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If you have any concerns at all about anything relating to your business or personal life or that of a colleague, then speak with SAIFSupport:

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