When An Employee Dies at Work – What Happens?

When an employee dies at work, it causes high levels of upset amongst the staff. There can be disruption to the workplace, and action that should be taken in the event of such a sad event. It’s a good idea to have an appropriate strategy in place to deal with this issue should it arise. This will make the event much less upsetting for all parties involved.

There are many practical issues to tackle such as informing staff and possibly the next of kin. It’s imporant to make sure the employee’s family receive any outstanding payments. Dealing with tax and national insurance should be done efficiently too to lessen the burden on the family of the deceased. Coverage of the employee’s job will also need to be arranged.

If the death is work related, the employer will also have health and safety obligations to carry out.


Legal Implications if an Employee Dies at Work

The death of an employee whilst at work is one of the most difficult things an employer will ever have to deal with. It may occur as the result of an accident, industrial disease, violence at work, or as a result of the employee falling ill.

Reporting the Death of an Employee

If the employee dies as a result of an accident at work, you should firstly call the emergency services but do not move the body before they arrive. You must also report the death immediately to the health and safety authorities. Within 10 days you must follow this up by sending them a completed accident report form. An investigation will then be carried out to determine the circumstances which led up to the death.


Payroll Issues

You must calculate the final amount owed to the employee and make sure that this is paid to the deceased employee’s personal representative, usually the executor of their estate.

You will normally need to consider whether the employee was:

  • Due any outstanding payments of wages.
  • Eligible for tax credits.
  • Due to make payments from their salary, such as a student loan payment or child support payment.
  • Receiving statutory payments, e.g. maternity pay.
  • A member of a company share scheme.

Payments made after an employee’s death are still subject to the same tax rules as normal. However, Class 1 National Insurance contributions (both employer and employee) do not have to be made. You also need to complete a final P45 on behalf of the deceased employee.


Occupational Pension Schemes

A surviving spouse or other dependants may be entitled to receive a survivor’s pension. In some cases, a lump sum payment may become available. This will usually be paid to the surviving spouse or the executor of the estate. The trustee of the Pension Scheme will be able to provide further detail on any payments which need to be made to the deceased’s dependants.


Management Issues

You will need to discuss who is going to cover the deceased’s workload in the short term. After this, any decision can be taken about recruiting a permanent replacement. It is usually advisable to get temporary cover, as opposed to asking other employees to take over the workload.


Letting People Know When an Employee Dies

When an employee dies, you will need to inform other members of staff with sensitivity and compassion. You should try to inform those closest to the employee first and in a private place if possible.

Staff should be allowed time off to grieve and to attend the funeral, if necessary. You should encourage employees to seek counselling if needed. If there has been an accident in the workplace, you may wish to bring in a counsellor to help those involved. Do keep an open door policy to allow people to speak about their friend if needed.


Dealing With Outside Contacts

You also need to contact those with whom the deceased had regular contact during the course of their work. For example, customers and suppliers.

How you do this will depend upon the relationship you have with them. You may decide to call them or to inform them by letter. It might be a good idea to have a memorial service but it’s important to consult with the next of kin first.


Dealing With Next of Kin

It’s important to be sensitive to the deceased’s next of kin. A manager who knew the employee well might be the best person to break the news or perhaps, someone who knows the family well.

When the time is right, you will need to discuss the rights of the next of kin with regard to life assurance or death-in-service benefits. You also need to sort out any remaining salary payments, pension entitlements, and any personal possessions the employee may have stored at the workplace.

After establishing when the funeral is to take place, it is a good idea to ask the next of kin whether colleagues of the deceased are welcome to attend. You might care to send a letter of condolence to the family of the deceased or organise a floral tribute and allow other employees to contribute towards this.

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