If someone at work dies
If an employee or co-worker dies, it can affect other employees and the workplace.
The employer should:
- tell others at work the person has died, in a sensitive and personal way
- offer support to staff affected by the death
- contact the person’s family or next of kin to offer condolences
- let staff know how they can give their condolences
- share details of the funeral or ceremony, if staff have been invited
Before sharing any details with staff, it’s best to ask the person’s family or next of kin what they’d like people at work to know about the death.
Grief can affect people in different ways and at different times after a death.
It’s a good idea to:
- talk to staff regularly to see how they’re coping
- signpost staff to any support that’s available to them
It might be appropriate to honour the person who died with others at work. For example, you might consider:
- organising a book of condolence for staff to share their memories of the person who died
- holding an event or service to honour the person who died, inviting the family or next of kin as well, if appropriate
Andrea, a team leader at a cleaning company, died after testing positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). One of Andrea’s close friends at work called the company’s managing director, Peter, at home to let him know.
Although Peter was upset himself, he spoke to members of Andrea’s team as soon as they started work the next day. Then he set up a conference call with all staff to tell them personally what had happened, expressing his sympathy to Andrea’s friends and colleagues.
Peter explained how the company would be supporting Andrea’s family and affected employees. Members of Andrea’s team were allowed to finish work early.
Peter set up a small group of employees to help the company manage the situation. They told affected customers about Andrea’s death, and organised for other teams to take on some of Andrea’s team’s work.
Peter spoke to Andrea’s family to express his sympathy, and to check the funeral arrangements. The family wanted Andrea’s colleagues to attend the funeral but were limited by coronavirus restrictions. So they invited all the staff to join a live video stream of the funeral. As a mark of respect, the company closed for 2 hours on the morning of the funeral so that everyone could attend or spend the time honouring Andrea in their own way.
Over time Peter noticed that his relationship with many employees had changed, and they approached him directly more often. The way the company reacted and supported staff after Andrea’s death had helped improve their working relationships.
Finalising an employee’s affairs
The employer of the person who died should put their family or next of kin in touch with someone who can help finalise things in a sensitive and supportive way.
For example, someone who works in HR or a senior manager who can answer any questions about:
- the employment contract
- their pension
- other benefits
- how to return any personal belongings