by Judy Carole

Loss of a team member

Another form of grief in the workplace occurs when there is a death in the team. If it is an unexpected death, the manager or deputy should inform each member of the team, by phone not text, before they arrive at the workplace, or wait for them as they arrive so that they do not find out by chance. Give them as much information about the circumstances of the death possible, to prevent speculation and confusion.

Companies that have an HR department should

  • Notify key personnel that a death in service has occurred
  • Ensure that appropriate support, such as grief counselling, is in place for affected colleagues/managers
  • Send a clear, simple message of support
  • Request that the HR department give you a contact number for a bereavement counsellor in case of need
  • Request a named contact to act as a connection between the family and the workplace (this can also be you)
  • Ensure all calls and correspondence relating to the death are dealt with in a confidential and sensitive manner
  • Arrange for the removal of the deceased employee’s details, as their retention might cause distress; examples include distribution lists, phone directories, automatic phone displays and notice boards
  • Arrange to have an extraordinary meeting for all relevant staff at the first reasonable opportunity during that day, to share emotions and see if anyone’s grief is going to impact on the workplace (see grief)
  • Keep an ‘open door’ policy to staff who are affected by the death
  • Schedule a meeting to decide how to cover that person’s workload for an initial two-week period, which will give breathing space in which to consider a longer-term solution.

Someone, preferably the manager, should be in touch with the employee’s family to confirm the time and date of the funeral. If possible, a representative from the team should attend and/or visit the bereaved family.

Remembering a colleague

Co-workers should be encouraged to share their memories and grief. For example, they can organise a memorial service before or after work. They may also find other, more permanent, ways to memorialise their colleague, such as

  • Naming a part of the building after them
  • Planting a tree on site
  • Establishing a fund in their name
  • Holding a fund-raising event their name with proceeds going to a charity appropriate to the cause of the death or according to the family’s choice.

The above will keep their colleague’s memory alive and provide a positive focal point for the grief experienced by colleagues.

Death through an accident at work

A death in the workplace should be immediately reported to the Health and Safety Manager and the appropriate Senior Manager. It must also be reported the Incident Contact Centre of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and an investigation procedure should immediately be implemented (see Health and Safety at Work). Any accident at work must also be reported to the government’s health and safety department –