Grid, the industry body for group protection, polled 500 human resources bosses in March and found that nearly four in five (78 per cent) had supported a member of staff through bereavement in the past year.
Despite this, fewer than 65 per cent predicted having to do the same in the forthcoming twelve months.
Similarly, more than three quarters of HR representatives (76 per cent) had dealt with an employee being absent for six months or longer but the perceived likelihood of this happening again in the next year was just 60 per cent — 16 percentage points lower.
Further gaps in firms’ expectations were shown surrounding mental health problems and serious illnesses.
Figures from Macmillan, used in the research, showed that 125,000 people of working age are diagnosed with cancer each year, while mental health charity Mind’s research showed one in four per year will experience a mental health problem.
The perceived likelihood of such events happening was much lower from an HR perspective, however.
The findings showed that 63 per cent of HR decision makers thought they would have to assist someone struggling with mental health — 9 percentage points lower than the actual — while the likelihood of a serious illness was pegged at 5 percentage points below what is actually dealt with in the workplace at 59 per cent.
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Katharine Moxham, spokesperson for Grid, said: "Employers need to realise that just because they’ve dealt with a serious incident with one employee, it unfortunately does not mean that they are in some way immune from it happening again.
"Indeed, larger organisations, and those with a specific demographic bias, may find themselves repeatedly dealing with a similar scenario for individuals within their workforce."
Ms Moxham said each serious scenario should not be viewed in isolation, as a serious illness, long-term illness, or death of a loved one or colleague could also lead to a mental health issue.
She added: "True support for employees needs to go beyond that individual member of staff and extend to their family too.
"These serious issues have a wide impact on partners and dependants, and the individual member of staff will only be fully supported and get true peace of mind if they know their family is looked after as well."
According to Grid, companies can offer group risk life insurance, income protection and critical illness for as little as 1 per cent of the payroll cost.
Ms Moxham said: "This can give employers the means of throwing their staff a financial lifeline following a life-changing event.