For many people, coworkers are like family:
If you’ve been working at the same place for a long time – or even for a short time, in some cases – you may develop deep connections with the people you work with each day. You learn about their hopes and dreams, their pasts, and their families.
When you spend eight hours a day, five days a week with the same people, it’s natural that you’ll become fond of many of them, and will feel a deep connection with some of them, too.
Therefore, when a workplace death occurs, it can be devastating. No one wants to lose someone close to them, and when it happens in a place that feels like home, it can be an especially emotional and overwhelming loss.
A workplace death can happen in any workplace. In some cases, the death is completely unrelated to the job at hand. In other cases, a workplace death may be due to a on-the-job accident.
But, no matter what the cause, there are certain things that should happen after a workplace death so everyone can mourn together and then move on from it together as well.
Read on to learn more about how to handle a workplace death.
1. Provide Employee Support
The first thing you want to do when a workplace death occurs is to provide support to your employees. It’s likely that everyone in your workplace family is affected by the loss and some may need professional grief counseling. Make sure that it is available to anyone who wants it, and make sure it’s available long term. Some of your employees may not realize they need it until later on.
2. Respect the Privacy of the Deceased
Remember that HIPAA laws are applicable even after someone’s death. The details of the workplace death should not be shared with the other employees; the information that is released is up to the family, not the employer.
If your employee worked with people outside of your company, you will likely want to inform those people of the employee’s passing as well, but again, don’t share any details without the family’s permission.
3. Allow Funeral and Memorial Attendance
If the deceased’s funeral is local – or even if it’s not – allow other employees to attend if they wish. This is common courtesy. Further, if your employees wish to remember the deceased with a memorial event or to do something in honor of the deceased, that’s another nice way to remember a coworker who has died.
4. Make Sure Human Resources Is Aware of the Workplace Death
When an employee dies on the job or at home, human resources needs to know. Human resources staff needs to process the employee as if he or she has left the position. Issue a final paycheck to the family and they should also be paid for unused PTO or vacation. Further, make sure the employee’s personal effects are returned to the family as well.
5. Cover Yourself Legally
If the death occurred on your property, make sure you are covered from a legal standpoint. Whether the workplace death was the result of a workplace accident, or even if you have nothing to do with it at all, you will likely want to speak to a workplace accident lawyer like sweetlaw.com.
Workplace Death Is Tragic
No one wants to lose a loved one, and when a workplace death occurs, it can affect so many people. Knowing what to do in these cases is half the battle. When prepared, you can spend your time mourning the deceased rather than worrying about all of the details.
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