Helping Employees Cope with the Passing of Co-worker

Very few things are as challenging to manage as handling the estate of a loved one who has passed on. One of the questions that Employers Council regularly receives, unfortunately, is what employers should do when an employee passes on. Human Resources professionals can be instrumental in helping the grieving family, co-workers, and the organization through such a difficult time.

Usually, the first question is whether the employer can provide the deceased employee’s last paycheck to his or her family. As is often the case, the answer is: it depends. If the deceased employee was married, employers might be able to pay to a certain amount to the deceased employee’s spouse unless another personal representative has been appointed. However, state law should always be reviewed before making any payments. There is often specific paperwork that has to be completed first, particularly if the employee was not married.

Make sure that HR notifies applicable vendors of the employee’s passing as of the date of death. For example, informing the company’s healthcare insurer of the employee’s passing could trigger COBRA for qualifying dependents. If possible, it is beneficial to the family to have one person in HR as the contact for all communication rather than having to talk to different staff members within the company for various benefits.

To assist the organization, be sure to send out a notice of the employee’s passing and provide funeral details once known. Consider offering grief counseling on-site, and allowing co-workers to personalize their work schedules for the week following, particularly if the death occurred at work. Of course, coverage for the deceased employee’s job will also need to be managed. Later, lead the effort to hold an appropriate memorialization, such as planting a garden or performing community service together at the deceased’s favorite charity.

As always, feel free to reach out to Employers Council for guidance in such difficult times. Our consultants can provide you with best practices.