Guidelines when dealing with the death of a current staff member

  • The death of an employee can be a difficult and traumatic experience for those who are left to deal with the loss of a colleague. The information below is intended as guidance to ensure that processes are put in place as effectively and sensitively as possible. However, each set of circumstances may be different, and this guidance may therefore not be comprehensive, please contact your link HR Business Partner/Manager for further advice.

  • Whoever receives notification of the death should ensure that they:

    • get the name of the person informing the University, their relationship to the deceased, their contact details (phone number, email address and postal address if possible) and any other relevant information which can reasonably confirm the accuracy of the information provided. NB. On many occasions the notifier will be the next of kin
    • get the full name of the deceased and place of work (if possible)
    • inform the notifier that the line manager of the deceased or another delegated member of staff will be in contact with them
    • inform the line manager of the deceased immediately.

    Line manager of the deceased or delegated member of staff (NB. there might be pragmatic reasons for the line manager to take a step away from the process, e.g line manager was particularly close to the colleague who has passed and is overcome with grief, or if there were any notable difficulties in the working relationship between the line manager and the deceased colleague) will be responsible for the following:

    • contacting the notifier/the next of kin to express sympathy, obtain further details on the date and cause of death, offer support and confirm that they will be their main liaison point. If appropriate at this stage, the line manager or delegated member of staff might ask details of the funeral and if a representative from the University or colleagues can attend. They may want to receive permission from the next of kin to share the news with colleagues within the department and arrange for any personal belongings to be returned (although this may be discussed at a later date if appropriate). The notifier/next of kin should be informed that a colleague from the University’s HR department will be in contact with them to confirm the final salary and pension arrangements of the deceased in due course
    • informing the relevant link HR Business Partner/Manager. They will be able to advise on the procedure and offer support and guidance to staff affected by the death
    • informing colleagues within the department if permitted by the notifier/the next of kin
    • arranging for colleagues who are affected by the loss to be supported appropriately, both immediately and in the following days and weeks (see ‘Support available’ below)

    Line manager of the deceased or delegated member of staff may consider sending flowers or other sympathy gifts to the next of kin/family. 

    HR Business Partner/Manager will be responsible for informing the following, as appropriate:

    • Senior HR Adviser - Information and Processes (they will notify Payroll Department and Pension Provider)
    • The Registrar/Academic Registrar/Vice-Chancellor
    • Communications Team
    • Chaplaincy team
    • Occupational Health Service
    • Director of Learning Resources
    • HR Employee Services Team.

    The following procedure is to be followed in the event of the death of a member of staff. It is essential that information is disseminated sensitively and tactfully in order to alleviate any further distress to relatives, colleagues and students.

    Responsibility of line manager of the deceased or delegated member of staff:

    • to inform staff and students (if applicable). Discretion and the wishes of the next of kin should be taken into account to determine who should be notified and how much information should be shared. This is especially important where the death has been sudden and unexpected or due to suicide.  When colleagues are being informed of the death, they should also be made aware that they can contact Occupational Health, the Chaplaincy Team or HR for support should they require it.  The University’s Employee Assistance Programme, which provides counselling and bereavement support, is also available for staff for free and at any time. It is advisable to communicate the news in a private environment if possible and allow staff to grieve. Wider notifications might include committee membership, circulation lists, etc
    • depending on the nature of the circumstances, to consider removing photographs (and other references) of the member of staff concerned, from the University website and from notice boards
    • to consider ensuring that the member of staff’s email account (in liaison with ITS) and telephone are redirected to another nominated member of staff in the department with immediate effect
    • to notify staff about funeral arrangements (if appropriate) and to arrange for representation at the funeral (if the next of kin has agreed to this). Requests for time off to attend the funeral should be reviewed tactfully and sensitively
    • to deal sensitively and safely with any personal belongings held within the University in conjunction with relatives of the deceased 
    • to establish whether any items, documentation, data, etc which belong to the University were kept by the individual anywhere outside the department (e.g. at home) so that arrangements can be made for these to be returned. Sensitivity will be required in dealing with the next of kin over return of any items. The ITS Information Security Management team should be informed and consulted with
    • in conjunction with ITS and HR to ensure that the employee is de-registered from their IT accounts, local systems, drives and other lists as appropriate (e.g. department web pages, University phone list)" i.e. to have (e.g. department web pages, University phone list, calendar events)
    • if the member of staff was a grant holder, or was employed on a research grant, to seek advice from the Research Support Director (RBDO, Finance and Legal Services) about information that needs to be sent to the sponsor and who would liaise with the faculty and the funding body on the University's behalf
    • to liaise with the Finance and Legal Services team to establish whether there are any expenses outstanding or debts which will need to be settled or purchasing cards to be cancelled
    • if the deceased had any particular responsibilities for liaising with external organisations, to ensure that external colleagues are informed as appropriate.
    • to redirect any student-related processes involving the staff member.
    • to ensure (in liaison with the Communication Team) an obituary is published in the Staff Communications Hub if appropriate.
    • if a member of staff passes away whilst abroad or is an overseas national, to assist with repatriation where necessary and appropriate.

    Responsibility of HR:

    • Liaise with the next of kin as required, including confirming when and how the final salary will be made (usually via cheque to the estate but should be confirmed with payroll), how the pension scheme will be notified and that the pension scheme will contact them
    • to liaise with the line manager and Payroll department with regards to the final salary calculations along with any other entitlements so that the employee’s estate receives the correct payments for the salary up to the date of death, owed annual leave and any other money that is owed 
    • to liaise with the pension provider if required with regards to the benefits due and any requirements needed to settle them
    • to update the employee’s personnel records, liaising with the line manager so that they understand that IT accounts will be closed and that they should contact ITS if they need to access anything
    • to arrange for a letter of condolence to be sent on behalf of the University to the next of kin from the Director of HR and Vice-Chancellor.

    Responsibility of Finance and Legal Services:

    • to check whether there are any debts on e5 or ecsis
    • to cancel purchasing cards 
    • to check any outstanding expenses
    • to receive formal confirmation of who the legal and personal representative is, in order for Payroll to issue a cheque for final salary
    • to liaise with the relevant department to ensure that appropriate action is taken to inform any funders which the academic may have been working with.

    Responsibility of the Communication team:

    • if there is likely to be press interest in a death, to liaise with the relevant department to agree a strategy for handling the media. No information should be given to any external enquirer; instead they should be referred to the  Communications team. The Communications team will also liaise with the relevant department to coordinate any internal communication via Staff Communications Hub if necessary.

    Responsibility of the Director of Learning Resources:

    • to remove the member of staff from library records and ensure that no invoices are sent to the deceased’s address.

    If the death occurs on campus then the first step is to call the normal emergency services and police. The employee discovering the death must report it immediately to the link HR Business Partner/Manager, the Head of Department and the University Safety Manager who may investigate so full records of the incident must be collected and retained. The line manager of the deceased or delegated member of staff is responsible for breaking the news to the next of kin only if the police have advised it is appropriate to do so. The next of kin details can be obtained from HR by contacting the HR Employee Services team.

    There are a number of places where support can be found at the University. 

    Below are listed a few:

    • Occupational Health (counselling service referrals, provision of team sessions to support bereaved colleagues)
    • Chaplaincy (companionship and spiritual care to bereaved colleagues, help with arrangement of memorial service and other memorials - bench, tree, stone if appropriate).
    • Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) (counselling and bereavement support)
    • Colleagues requiring counselling should be advised to contact their GP practice.
    • Cruse Bereavement Care offers support, advice and information to children, young people and adults when someone dies.