Death in service

This guidance for managers covers the actions required when a member of staff dies whilst an employee of the University. Each set of circumstances may be different, and this guidance may therefore not be comprehensive, please contact your HR Business Partner for further advice.

In the case of death in the workplace
Where the death occurs at work the first step is to call the normal emergency services.

The death must be reported as soon as possible to the Director of the Safety Office who will be responsible for reporting it to the health and safety authorities.

The department should nominate an appropriate and reasonably senior member of staff - perhaps a manager who knew the employee well or an employee who know the family - to break the news to next of kin.

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.

Dealing with next of kin

Departments should nominate an appropriate and reasonably senior member of staff to be the point of contact within the department/University 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

Notifying colleagues

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:

  • Inform those closest to the employee first
  • Communicate the news in private environment if possible
  • Allow staff time to grieve and attend the funeral
  • Deal sensitively with distressed staff.

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.

Bereavement counselling

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

Dealing with the media

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.

Pensions issues

Administrators should contact the University Pensions Office as a matter of urgency as they will deal with matters such as the ‘death in service’ lump sum and activating the dependent’s benefits (where applicable).


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 (e.g. 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 (i.e. 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.

Other outstanding payments

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.

Personal items

It is advisable not to deal with any personal items left at work too precipitously: next of kin may wish to come and collect these, or it may be more appropriate for them to be delivered.

Departmental equipment, research papers, documentation, etc

The department should establish as quickly as possible whether any items, 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.

Research grants

If the member of staff was a grant holder, or was employed on a research grant, the administrator should contact Research Services for advice about information that needs to be sent to the sponsor.

IT account

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

Departmental leaver documentation

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

Departmental records

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.