Human Resources

Support & well-being

Dealing with the death of a member of staff

From time to time, managers, supervisors and staff may have to deal with the effects of the death of a colleague, or a student with whom there has been a close working relationship. Thankfully, such incidents are rare, but this fact, coupled with their distressing nature, particularly when the death was unexpected, makes them difficult to handle. These guidelines are designed to provide assistance to the management of such situations.

Death resulting from accident or illness

Primary responsibility for managing the situation will rest with the Dean/Director of Service or relevant senior manager, but an acute emergency/accident, will involve anyone at the scene. A checklist of the key actions required is given in Appendix 1.

Support to others

An incident resulting in the death of a member of staff, particularly if it occurs at work, is likely to be very traumatic for witnesses, colleagues and any visitors/members of the public present. Managers will need to consider how best to inform colleagues who may not have been present at the time of the incident.

Report of incident

Any work related incident should be reported in accordance with the University’s Accident Reporting Procedure.

The University is required to report the death of an employee, as a result of an accident, or injuries arising out of or in connection with work, to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) as soon as possible. This will be undertaken by the Health & Safety Manager upon receipt of the accident form, which must be completed without delay. "In connection with work" would include official business on a different site and would also include official travel, but not journeys between home and base.

It is the responsibility of Deans/Director of Service to ensure that all accidents, resulting in injury, are reported on an Accident Report Form and submitted to the Health, Safety & Environment office without delay.

In the event of incidents occurring outside normal working hours, or during the absence of officers in the Health, Safety & Environment office, relevant information regarding major incidents must be telephoned to the Security Service, who in turn will oversee the notification arrangements in accordance with procedures agreed between the Health, Safety & Environment Manager and Security Manager.

Payroll notification

In the case of a death of a member of staff, the appropriate manager must notify Payroll and Human Resources, as soon as possible, to ensure that the necessary pay adjustments, death benefit and pension arrangements are effected.

Internal communication

The appropriate manager should advise the Chief Operating Officer as soon as possible, of the death of an employee, irrespective of cause or place, so that an internal communication can be effected.

Letter from Vice Chancellor

Brief personal details, career history, dependents details etc should be provided to the PA of the Vice Chancellor, so that a letter of condolence can be written on behalf of the University.

Funeral arrangements

Staff will naturally wish to know the details of the funeral arrangements. In order to avoid unnecessary disturbance to the relatives, the Dean/Director of Service or a nominated person, should take responsibility for the communication of arrangements to colleagues.

Providing support

Bereavement is an issue with which many people feel uncomfortable, but colleagues may feel the need to talk about the circumstances as a means of coming to terms with what has happened. This is a normal part of the grieving process and efforts should be made within the workplace to listen, show understanding and give both psychological and practical support.

Providing support to the affected staff begins with responding to each individual's emotions, which can range from silence to disbelief, crying, denial or anger. Suggested actions:

  • Observe for emotions such as tearfulness, silence or shock.
  • Acknowledge and identify with the emotion experienced by the individual.
  • Allow time for silence and tears.
  • Empathy can be shown by using terms such as "I think I understand how you must be feeling".
  • Encourage and allow the individual time to express their emotions and let them know you understand and acknowledge their emotions.

Further support and counselling will need to be considered and can be arranged for staff by contacting the University’s Counselling Service, University’s Chaplaincy – Centre for Faiths and Spirituality, Occupational Health, or Human Resources.

Breaking bad news

The situation may also arise, where a manager/supervisor has to inform a colleague of a serious injury to, or the death of a member of that person’s close family. In such circumstances, it will also be important to ensure that arrangements are made to transport and accompany the member of staff to the hospital/home etc. The level of support offered to the employee thereafter, will depend on the individual circumstances. Details of special (compassionate leave) arrangements are included on the HR web pages.

Appendix 1 - Manager’s checklist

Employee Name……………………………    Staff Number…………………….

Action required

Action taken by


1. Call out emergency services



2. Contact University Security



3. Contact First Aider



4. Employee personal belongings taken charge of



5.Witness details taken



6.Report to Health & Safety Manager



7.Accident form completed and sent to H&S



8. Chief Operating Officer advised



9. Payroll advised



10 Human Resources advised



11. Colleagues advised



12. Leaving form completed



13 Details sent to Vice Chancellor’s PA for letter to relatives



14. Letter sent by Vice Chancellor



15. Collection taken for flowers/donation



16. Funeral arrangements communicated



17. Further support arranged (if reqd)

  • Family
  • Colleagues



18. Plans made to cover duties etc.



19. University property recovered



Manager…………………………………….       Date………………………………