How to Deal With the Death of an Employee at Work
Any business that does not prepare for unexpected events such as a death in the workplace will suffer the consequences. The death of an employee can mean your business suffers from some serious reputational damage, even if the accident was not your fault. That means it is essential that your business create a contingency plan for such a horrendous event. You will have upset colleagues and even some paranoia setting in. You may need to deal with some employees needing time off depending on how close they were to the employee, or of they saw the accident. Clearly, you need to be prepared financially, and you also need to consider the emotional aspects of such an occurrence. You need to deal with this loss in a very considerate, dignified and compassionate way.
Plan for a Death
Planning for the death of an employee will help you navigate the storm. Consider all the various ways a member of your team could die in their role and come up with plans for every scenario. First, you should try and mitigate any risk and put a lot of safety measures in place. Make sure you have all the correct insurances too. You also need some contacts such as sympathetic wrongful death lawyers and a PR person to step in and help if the time ever comes.
When you First Learn of the Death
This is not something you can sweep under the carpet. You need to inform your other employees asap. Perhaps advise the people who are closest to the deceased employee first and in private, then go with a larger announcement. Allow your employees time to discuss the death with each other. In fact, encourage them to discuss then death, this will help them get through the grief and shock. Perhaps offer some counselling to anyone really struggling. You will also need to talk to the family, find out what you can do to help them in this time. Do not try to shirk responsibility, but do not take the blame either. An investigation needs to be undertaken to find out exactly what happened before any blame can be attributed.
Clearly, you need to stay in touch with the family of the deceased employee and be as sympathetic as possible. Ask them about the funeral arrangements and ensure that it is okay for you to encourage your staff to attend the funeral. Offer staff paid over-time or compassionate leave on the day of the funeral.
Someone needs to be put in charge of the deceased work belongings. This person will need to make arrangements for the deceased family to either collect the belongings or have them delivered, whichever is most convenient for them. They also need to ensure that the deceased workload has been transferred to other employees. If you have key person insurance, you need to contact the insurer and get the insurance money you are owed.
Do a thorough investigation into the death and ensure nothing like this can happen again. You need to talk to your current employees and let them know what is happening as a result of the death, and how things will improve for them going forward.