We may dislike discussing or even thinking about death, but sooner or later it may happen to one of your employees.

Handling the sudden and unexpected death of an employee at work will be an onerous task to many business owners.  If you are faced with this difficult situation in your business, you will need to adopt a practical and sensitive approach by observing the following:

1. Contact the next of kin – At times like these, the importance of having routinely updated employee records will ensure that you have access to the latest emergency contact details.

2. Support their colleagues – Allowing special leave for colleagues close to the deceased to deal with the shock or providing bereavement counselling to those affected is recommended, as is allowing employees to attend the funeral as representatives of the company.

3. Inform their contacts such as customers, clients and suppliers – These people will appreciate you letting them know and will give them the opportunity to express their sympathies and make arrangements regarding the continuity of work.  Sending an email will aid this process but remember to keep it simple and informative.

4. Maintaining continuity – Although interim cover will have to be organised quickly, it is advisable to wait one or two months before recruiting a permanent replacement.  Advertising the role immediately will likely cause distress to employees and deter them from applying.  You will also need to review the deceased future meetings and either cancel or find someone else to do it.

5. Computer access, email and voicemail – Remember to revoke all access to computers just as you would for an employee who has resigned. Take care of their email by setting up auto-respond providing details on whom the sender should contact.  Voicemail should be reverted to ‘announce only’ mode (callers will hear the greeting but will not be able to leave a message) and when time permits, you should record a new greeting which tells the caller whom to call.  Providing further detail is unnecessary and can be explained to callers later.

6. Health and Safety reporting – If the death has resulting from an accident at work, a health and safety record must be kept including the date, time and place of the event.  All fatal accidents must be reported immediately to the enforcing authority via the Health and Safety Executive website under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (SI 1995/3163).

7. Pay and benefits – Any life assurance benefit or payment of an occupational pension scheme should be processed quickly. Any pay owing should be paid to the appointed representative of the deceased. The P45 should be completed by writing a ‘’D’’ in the box and sending all four parts to HMRC.  Remember to inform all other benefit providers to prevent a situation where the family is still receiving post relating to the deceased months after his or her death.

Your handling of the aftermath of a colleague’s death at work will impact on many different levels.  Thinking ahead will ensure that you are prepared for the unexpected, however challenging this may seem at the time.


By Bruce Ramshaw

Principal Consultant


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