Addressing the Death of an Employee

The death of an employee is a tragic event that significantly impacts his or her loved ones, your organization, and your employees. Your employees, even those who weren’t close to the deceased, may experience grief in a variety of ways. While such an event is one that no one should have to experience, it’s important to be prepared. There are a number of issues that must be addressed, such as informing the staff, transitioning the employee’s work, and discussing benefits with the employee’s family and beneficiaries.

While you should always consult with your company’s human resources and/or legal departments when dealing with such matters, consider using the following checklist to address the most immediate issues following the death of an employee.

Immediate Steps After an Employee’s Death

  • Have the employee’s supervisor or another member of senior management contact the deceased’s family to:
    • Extend condolences and ask about funeral arrangements, including whether co-workers are welcome.
    • Find out how the family would like you to communicate details of the employee’s death to others.
    • Determine the family’s wishes regarding remembrances and where employees should send sympathy cards. Some may appreciate flowers, while others may prefer that donations be made to charity.
    • Advise the family of available benefits and support services. While some will want to delay this discussion, others may find it useful prior to making arrangements and covering final expenses. Be sure to communicate the availability of any benefits that can help cover funeral costs.
  • Send a card and a gift, such as flowers or a fruit basket, to the family.
  • Contact your employee assistance program (EAP) or community services to assist with employee counseling. EAP services can help your organization cope with the employee’s death and aid in the healing process. These services may offer the following:
    • Advice on the best way to handle the situation
    • On-site crisis management and/or debriefing services
    • Telephonic support for employees

    If you don’t have an EAP provider, consider inviting someone from the community, such as a social worker or grief therapist, to provide assistance.

  • Notify your employees of the employee’s death, and address the following:
    • The availability of counseling through your EAP or other services, and these services’ contact information.
    • Information about the funeral or memorial services, if appropriate. Details should include the time and location of the services; any arrangements being coordinated to remember the employee, such as contributions toward flowers, gifts, or a charitable donation; and time-off polices for those planning to attend.
  • Notify the deceased’s key external contacts, including customers, suppliers, vendors, and anyone who dealt with the employee on a regular basis. Vary your form of communication depending on how close each party was to the deceased. Also, supply each party with the appropriate new contact information.

Recognizing the impact that a co-worker’s death has on the organization and being sensitive to the needs of employees and the deceased’s family members are important first steps in helping your organization move forward.


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The illustrations, instructions, and principles in this material are general in scope and, to the best of our knowledge, current at the time of publication. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations nor to identify all potential risks or requirements.