One of the most difficult things to face while leading a company is the loss of one of your employees. It is emotionally burdensome and as such, completely understandable if you are not sure where to begin. Though being in this state of mind is difficult for you and the remaining employees, they will still look to you for direction as their leader. Having a plan in advance is helpful as grief could prevent you from formulating one on demand. Not only because you need to find a way to keep the business running, but also because how you deal with people during that time will say a lot about what kind of employer you are.
Knowing a few ways to handle everyone’s grief beforehand will also allow you to act naturally and empathetically, offering the needed workplace support to prevent loss of employee morale. It also matters because it is very easy to make unintentional mistakes that may come across as insensitive since your mind may also be struggling to process the loss. With all this in mind, here is a comprehensive guide on what you should do in the unfortunate case of an employee’s death.
1. Empathetic Support for Family and Remaining Employees
a) Support for the Bereaved Family
The first course of action should be to contact the grieving family. This is an understandably difficult thing to do, but keeping it brief and sincere will make it easier. Ask the family if there is anything you can do. Although there is usually not much to do, the family must know you understand their pain and they are supported. During this call, you should also seek the family’s permission to announce the death. Again, this is mostly for the sake of courtesy because the employees are bound to find out if they do not know already. Permission is most likely to be granted, and the best ways of doing it would be during a small office gathering or via an email to all the members of staff. After this initial call, it is also good practice to send some kind of condolence; a contribution towards the burial services, a card signed by the company staff if possible, or even flowers would suffice.
b) The Remaining Employees
The loss of a person you have been in any kind of community with is devastating at worst and unsettling at best. When you break the news to the team, there will be different reactions from people and you need to be prepared for all of them. It is important to make prior arrangements for an official mental health support program for your staff, which often comes in handy during other traumatic situations thus making it a good investment regardless. You should also give everyone time to process the loss in the way they know best, even giving paid leave if an individual seems overwhelmed. However, a leave alone may not be adequate in such a situation; you may also need to assign a counselor to follow up while they are away.
2. Handling Closure
a) Official Contract Termination
As hard as this may seem, you need to terminate the deceased employee’s contract just as if they had only left. The date of termination would be the date they passed on.
b) Paying Out Anything Due to the Deceased
For the payroll, you should pay it to their account as normal since probate will sort everything out from there. You would also need to make the day they died the last day, and if it was a weekend, their last day should be the Friday before. The pension providers of the deceased also need to be notified that they will no longer be receiving payments. Finally, remember to notify the HMRC of the employee’s passing. Include a full payment submission after officially recognizing them as a leaver.
c) The Deceased Personal Belongings and Office Space
As it may be distressing to physically see the belongings of the deceased belongings being removed from their usual place, it is advisable to do so in the absence of other staff members. How long it takes to do this will also be up to the company’s bereavement policy. The items should also be delivered to the family or at least a reminder sent to them after some time as they might be too busy to remember. It would also be a good idea to rearrange the office desk setting so that it is harder for those who sat next to the late employee to feel an obvious gap. The change will also make it easier for everyone to adapt to the presence of the new employee who will replace the deceased. When to replace the lost employee will depend on the urgency. However, it would be best to give it some time
Dealing with grief of any kind is probably one of the most difficult human experiences. However, with clear guidelines on what to do, it is a manageable ordeal. One thing to always keep in mind is that whatever you do, ensure it is guided by empathy. The grieving party needs to know their loss is understood and that they are being supported.