Death in service

Last updated 11 May 2023  

This guidance is for HR staff and managers and covers the actions needed when a member of staff dies whilst an employee of the University.

Each set of circumstances will be different, and this guidance may therefore not be comprehensive. If you need further advice please contact your HR Business Partner.

In the case of death in the workplace

Where the death occurs whilst the employee is at work the first step is to call the normal emergency services, (if they are not already present) by dialling 999.

The department should nominate an appropriate and reasonably senior member of staff - perhaps a manager who knew the employee well or an employee who knows the family - to contact the next of kin as soon as possible.

The death must also be reported at the earliest opportunity to the Director of the Safety Office who will be responsible for reporting it, as appropriate, to the health and safety authorities.

If an employee dies as a result of an accident at work within one year of the date of the accident, this must also be reported to the Director of the Safety Office, for reporting to the appropriate authorities.


Expand All

Departments should nominate an appropriate and reasonably senior member of staff within the department/University to be the single point of contact for the next of kin  to avoid confusion at a distressing time.  

At an appropriate time, this person will need to deal with questions, provide information and assist with what will be sensitive matters including:

  • establishing when the funeral is to take place and asking whether colleagues of the deceased are welcome to attend.
  • advising the University and colleagues about letters of condolence, floral and other tributes
  • arranging for personal possessions to be forwarded or collected and for the return any departmental equipment, etc. 
  • providing information about outstanding salary payments and death-in-service benefits

Back to top

The Administrator and Head of Department will need to consider whom within the department and University, or more widely, needs to be notified.

It is advisable to:

  • identify sources of support, such as departmental colleagues, HR and EAPs
  • inform those closest to the employee first and deal sensitively with distressed staff
  • communicate the news in private environment if possible 
  • in the event that the member of staff who has died was a line manager, ensure that a new key point of contact is identified for their team members as quickly as possible
  • allow staff time to grieve and attend the funeral

Wider notifications might include committee membership, circulation lists, Occupational Health concerning health surveillance monitoring programmes, etc, as well as any suppliers, or other external contacts.

The Pensions Office has the responsibility to formally notify senior officers of the University about a death.

Back to top

The Pensioner Welfare Officer (contactable via the Pensions Office) may be able to assist with bereavement counselling and other practical assistance for the deceased’s family. 

Colleagues requiring counselling should be advised to contact their GP practice. 

Employees and their families can also access either face to face, online or telephone counselling via an Employee Assistance Programme, Health Assured.

Alternatively the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy website gives details of bereavement counsellors.

Back to top

If an employee dies whilst at work there may be media interest.  The University’s Press office should be contacted for advice in such circumstances.

Back to top

Administrators should contact the University Pensions Office as a matter of urgency. If the employee was a member of one of the University’s pensions schemes they will deal with matters such as the ‘death in service’ lump sum and activating any dependant’s benefits.

Back to top

The Administrator should complete the normal leaver’s form, giving reason for leaving as death and date of leaving as the date the death occurred.  They should include any outstanding leave, or any other outstanding payments (eg pro-rata quarterly or annual additional payments). They should also discuss with Payroll whether there are any salary advances, salary sacrifice arrangements, loan repayments (such as student loans), or statutory payments in process (ie maternity pay) which needs to be considered before a final payment is agreed. 

Once informed of a death banks will normally freeze accounts, including joint accounts.  The final payment is therefore usually made to the “representatives of the estate of ...”

Salary payments will be subject to normal tax deductions, but not Class 1 National Insurance Contributions.

Back to top

Departments should bear in mind that the individual may have out-of-pocket expenses outstanding which will need to be settled.  It is important to inform the Payments team that the payee is deceased and that any payment must be made to “representatives of the estate of ...”.  Payments made through automated systems to the deceased’s bank account will be returned by the bank and cause delays.

Back to top

It is best not to deal with any personal items left at work too precipitously and to be sensitive to the wishes of the next of kin: they may wish to come and collect these personally, or may prefer for them to be sent to them. 

Back to top

The department should establish as quickly as possible whether any items or equipment, documentation, data, etc which belong to the University were kept by the individual anywhere outside the department (in a college room, or at home) so that arrangements can be made for these to be returned. Sensitivity will be required in dealing with the next of kin over return of any items.

Back to top

If the member of staff was a research award holder, or was employed on a research award, the Administrator should contact their normal Research Services contact for advice about how to communicate the news to the sponsor.

Back to top

The Administrator should contact IT Services to make appropriate arrangements over IT accounts and can arrange for access to be given to a relevant member of the department eg to set up an auto-reply and/or make arrangements to deal with any outstanding work or emails.

Back to top

Departments should complete their normal departmental leaver procedure, which may include cancellation of subscriptions.

Back to top

The departmental personnel records and file will need to be updated and closed but retained in line with the standard retention periods. If the person’s death is as a result of an accident/incident at work, the Health and Safety Executive may investigate so full records of the incident must be collected and retained.

Back to top