How to Manage the Loss of an Employee

By Haley Bass | 11/15/2017

The death of an employee is a shocking and distressing event. Whether the death is due to a work-related accident or not, the company has a responsibility to manage the loss appropriately and respectfully, both for the family and other employees. Hopefully you’ve never had to cope with an employee’s death, so the steps to take may be unfamiliar to you.

If you do have to manage the loss of an employee at some point, here are some appropriate actions to help ease the process for your workforce.

1. Notify the Staff

Let employees know about the passing as soon as possible. Speak privately with the deceased employee’s close work friends and immediate coworkers before sharing a general, written announcement with the rest of the company. Let them know whatever information you have that the family is comfortable sharing. Provide any information regarding events that employees can attend, like whether there’s a funeral or service, and explain that more details will be available later. You may want to also contact any other connections that the employee worked with, like clients or vendors.

2. Prepare for Mourning

Expect this news to be difficult for several of your employees, whether or not they were close to the deceased employee. Some will experience this event as a trauma, and you should be open to allowing employees to talk with each other as needed, or even go home if they need to process the news privately. In the coming days or weeks, expect lower productivity and motivation, especially from employees that were closer to the deceased. If you can, refer employees to your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for counseling.

3. Manage the Logistics

There are concrete issues a manager needs to handle after an employee passes. Keep in mind that it might be challenging and upsetting to complete these tasks, or it might be a relief to focus on something tangible.

Some of the logistics include:

  • Having family members or close work friends box up the employee’s personal belongings
  • Changing the employee's voice mail message
  • Preparing a brief statement to handle questions about the employee
  • Creating a short-term plan for unfinished and future work assignments

4. Memorialize the Loss

Whether or not coworkers are able to attend the funeral, your workforce will appreciate the company doing something to honor the deceased. Consider having a meeting where employees can talk and share memories of the coworker, asking employees to write cards or cook meals for the family, or collecting money for flowers. This can be a positive way to mourn and start moving forward.

5. Start Returning to Normalcy

Returning to a normal routine may not come immediately. You shouldn’t rush into replacing the employee and cleaning out their desk, which can be seen as insensitive. Instead, leave the workspace as is for a few weeks, and distribute the employee’s work before taking steps to hire someone else. When the time for a replacement does come, make sure to ease your workforce into it. Let them know the start date of the new employee and prepare them for the change.

Nothing can prepare you for the loss of an employee. While you hopefully never encounter this situation, it can be helpful to have a plan just in case.

If the loss is due to a work-related injury, there may be further distress and logistics from workers’ compensation issues. With a partner like Concentra, navigating these complicated matters is a lot easier. Talk to one of our representatives to learn more ways we can help your business handle difficult situations.