Your People Experts

Death of an Employee

The death of an employee is always an emotional affair to deal with, whether the death occurred at home or at work. It’s easy to overlook daily practices and procedures when you’re trying to determine what to do for the personal family and the work family; yet there is a need to keep the business operating while expressing compassion and sympathy.

Below are some guidelines to follow in the event of the death of an employee:

If the death occurs outside the workplace:

  • Notify HR and let them notify personnel on a need-to-know basis. Generally starting with executives first.
  • Notify general employee population and let them know that more information will be forthcoming.
  • After a reasonable amount of time, contact the family and inquire about funeral details and their wishes, and arrange a time for the appropriate contact person to discuss any benefits the employee may have had.
  • Assign a contact person that employees can contact if they have questions or concerns. This person can be an HR representative, a close co-worker/friend, or someone the family has designated to field calls directly.
  • Have your media relations person or designated HR representative handle any inquiries from the media, if necessary.

If the death occurs in the workplace:

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Call the employee’s emergency contact person and advise them of the situation and let them know to which hospital the employee will be taken.
  • Have a company representative meet the emergency contact and/or family at the hospital.
  • Contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) within 8 hours if the death is work-related.
  • Notify HR and let them notify personnel on a need-to-know basis. Generally starting with executives first.
  • Have your media relations person or designated HR representative handle any inquiries from the media, if necessary.
  • After a reasonable amount of time, contact the family and inquire about funeral details and their wishes, and arrange a time for the appropriate contact person to discuss any benefits the employee may have had.
  • Assign a contact person that employees can contact if they have questions or concerns. This person can be an HR representative, a close co-worker/friend, or someone the family has designated to field calls directly.

*NOTE*

If the death is due to a safety-related accident, make sure to follow your standard investigation
procedures to determine the cause and rectify the safety concern as soon as possible.


Once the above steps have been addressed, continue with arrangements to keep the business operating while allowing employees to pay their respects to their deceased co-worker. Plan for your EAP, or other appropriate facility, to provide counseling if necessary and allow employees to take some time off, preferably with pay, to grieve and/or attend the funeral services. If any flower arrangements, gifts or donations are collected for the family at the workplace, have a designated person take notes and pictures to provide the family with a list of such items and who sent them. Arrange for personal items of the employee to be packaged and picked-up or sent to the appropriate person.

Notify any clients or vendors that may have had contact with the employee; arrange for redirection of mail, emails and voicemails and follow your standard termination procedures, including return of any company equipment, keys, credit cards, etc. and ensure your security, both for the building and for your computer systems are addressed.

Process the employee’s benefits and final paycheck.

Note the beneficiaries listed on the employee’s insurance policy and contact them directly, arranging a time to meet with them in person if possible. In many cases, the beneficiary may be required to provide copies of the death certificate in order to process available benefits. If the employee participated in your health care plan, make sure you assist any dependents with the necessary COBRA paperwork and ensure they have a clear understanding of how COBRA works and what they can expect to happen. Make sure you terminate the insurance according to the policy statutes.

Determine what, if any, other benefits may be payable to the employee’s estate and follow your standard policy for final payment of these benefits. These benefits may include unused vacation, sick time or PTO that was accrued, and bonuses or awards. If the employee participated in a health savings account (FSA or HSA) or similar cafeteria plan, contact your plan administrator to see what the proper protocol is in the event of a participant’s death. If the employee participated in a company sponsored retirement plan, you will also need to confirm the policy protocol to process any monies the employee may have in their fund(s).

Finally, check your state guidelines for issuing the employee’s final paycheck. In addition to the IRS requirements (CLICK HERE), each state may have specific guidance for a paying a deceased employee’s wages. EAF members can check out our Payroll Toolkit on the member’s only website to view a state comparison chart on handling the wages of a deceased employee.


EAF responds to hundreds of hotline calls and emails monthly. We would be happy to answer any interesting questions you may have too! Contacts us at info@eafinc.org or 407.260.6556


Follow EAF on Social Media!


Ready to Join? CLICK HERE to Join now and receive 10% off NEW Member Dues!
Use PROMO CODE: EAF03 on your Membership Application.

Not ready to join, but I would like more information.

Please provide your contact information below and we will contact you shortly.

Recent Posts

Contact

Employers Association Forum, Inc.
640 E State Road 434, Suite 3100
Longwood, FL 32750

Phone 407.260.6556 Fax 407.260.2876
Email info@eafinc.org

Disclaimer

EAF provides information about current developments in labor and employment law. This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. Questions requiring legal advice should be addressed to the attorney of your choice. EAF members may be able to obtain a legal interpretation through our FREE Legal Hotline.