The passing of an employee is always a difficult time and things can become even more complicated if the death took place at work. Quite aside from the upheaval of managing a work schedule and meeting legal obligations, you’ll need to employ a compassionate and delicate approach, as you will be required to inform, support and console other staff members and potentially next of kin as well.
While the death of an employee can represent a challenge, it can also provide you with an opportunity to show leadership, empathy and dignity in trying circumstances. Of course, each situation is different and you must handle things in the manner that you believe befits them most appropriately, but this handy guide should provide a blueprint on practical steps you can follow when someone on the payroll departs this world.
If an employee dies in the workplace, you must call the emergency services immediately and refrain from moving the body until they have arrived on the scene. This protocol must be followed regardless of the manner of their death and aside from an ambulance, you must also notify the police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) of the incident. The HSE can be contacted on 0845 300 9923 from 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Depending on the circumstances of the death, it might fall to you to inform the deceased’s next of kin, as well. If that is the case, you should make every effort to contact them as soon as possible and inform them in a sensitive and compassionate manner. As the boss of the deceased, you may feel you are best placed to break the news; alternatively, if there is a particular workmate to whom they were closest and who is comfortable doing so, it may make more sense to have them inform the family.
It’s also important to inform other staff members as soon as possible. Try to contact those who were closest to the deceased before others and break the news gently in a private environment. Avoid public announcements until those individuals have first been informed, but don’t leave enough of a lag for gossip or rumours to spread. Give staff members time and space to grieve and allow them opportunity to attend the funeral (if that is in keeping with the family’s wishes). If your company has an onsite counselling or human resources department, give your employees advice about dealing with bereavement and discussing their reaction to the news with your in-house team.
It’s also a good idea to inform other individuals outside of the business of the news if they had dealings with the deceased in the past, present or future – this could include clients, customers, suppliers and other business contacts. Depending on the specific role and relationship of the person, you can do this in person or via telephone, email or letter.
In the event of an employee’s death, you must make sure you have paid them in full up to the date of their death. This can either be undertaken by you personally or the finances department and should be made payable to the deceased’s personal representative, which is usually either their solicitor or executor of their estate (often one and the same).
When compiling their final payslip or Full Payment Submission (FPS), you should enter the date of their death as the “date of leaving” on the form and take into account the following points:
• If the employee was due any outstanding payments for previous months
• If the employee was due any outstanding payments for holidays not yet taken
• If the employee was due to make payments such as child support, student loan or other obligations from their salary
• If the employee was receiving any statutory payments such as maternity leave
• If the employee was party to any company schemes or incentives
The final FPS should be filled out using the same tax code as normal and will still be subject to all standard taxation rules. However, Class 1 National Insurance Contributions (NICs) are no longer necessary from either employee or employer and neither are you required to produce a P45 for the deceased, as they will no longer be seeking further employment.
In the event that you find you still owe money to the deceased after filing their final FPS, use the tax code “OT” on a “week 1” or “month 1” basis. Again, write the date of death in the “Date of leaving” field and indicate “Yes” in the “Payment after leaving indicator” field, as well as selecting “H – Correction to an earlier submission” in the field for “Late payment reason”. As always, be sure to update your year-to-date figures to make sure the accounts make sense.
Depending upon the pension scheme available at your company and to which the deceased was enrolled, their husband, wife or other surviving next of kin may be entitled to a pay-out from their pension.
If a lump sum payment is appropriate, the amount must be paid to either the deceased’s spouse, a person named by the deceased prior to their death or to the executor of their estate. In cases where the pension is trust-based, more information can be obtained from the scheme’s trustee chair. In cases where the pension is contract-based, the scheme provider can advise on any payments or benefits that must be honoured after the member’s death.
Managing the aftermath
At an appropriate time after the incident, you should arrange for any personal effects of the deceased to be delivered to the next of kin and inquire about the funeral arrangements. If the family are happy for work colleagues to attend the service, give all staff members who wish to go the time off to do so. It may also be a nice idea to arrange a floral tribute or some other form of remembrance to the deceased to be displayed at the funeral, and other co-workers of the deceased will likely want to contribute. Placing a notice in local media can also be a nice gesture.
If the death took place at work and was a direct consequence of their labour, you may find yourself the subject of unwanted media scrutiny. In these cases, it is best not to ignore petitions for information altogether as this could contribute to bad press. On the other hand, it’s unwise to make any bold accusations or promises in any statement you make. The best course of action would be to issue a verbal or written statement, outlining the circumstances of the deceased’s passing, detailing how your company’s operations will be affected (if at all), expressing regret at the incident and offering condolences to the bereaved.
You might find that the incident will leave you temporarily short-staffed, not only in the absence left by the deceased but in the time taken off by other grieving employees. It’s vital to manage this situation compassionately by allowing people time to process the information and experience any attendant emotions, rather than prioritising workplace performance and productivity. If necessary, hire temporary or agency staff to meet the shortfall.
For more information on how to deal with the aftermath of an employee’s death, regardless of whether it took place in the workplace or elsewhere, get in touch with Your Funeral Choice on 01983 754 387. We’re here to help.