What Steps Should A Business Owner Take When An Employee Dies?

Death is a business owner’s worst nightmare. What do you do? What do you say? Is there anything to be done to keep business running smoothly without being downright insensitive to the rest of the staff? Much of what a business owner should do when an employee dies is dependent on how that employee died. Was it on company grounds? At home? Was the company at fault? Was the employee? These questions are best asked right away — because they need to be answered immediately.

We’re not going to mince words here. If an employee passes away in the workplace, there will inevitably be an investigation — and perhaps more than one. Your company will want to know the depth of its own liability in the death. The police might want to know whether or not there was any criminal wrongdoing. You see where we’re going with this? The first thing you should do is contact a business law lawyer, especially if the company may be partially at fault. 

First, let’s assume that there were no curious circumstances. Maybe your employee died at home. You’ll want to send out an email to employees and any clients or customers that may have had a close relationship with the deceased. If your business is large, you may want to offer counseling to employees. This isn’t just kind — it’s also business savvy. Mental health is important for productivity. You want your employees to feel optimistic about their own futures.

If the death occurred on site, then you will want to contact the employee’s family (with permission from your lawyers) to express condolences. Sending flowers would be a classy, appropriate move. Again, this isn’t just kind — it’s necessary. That’s because you need to get into touch with the beneficiary to send out the final paycheck and take care of any benefits the employee may have had (like a 401k). 

Speaking of final paychecks, make sure any checks already in the possession of the deceased have been cashed. If they have not, cancel the checks immediately! Should those checks be cashed after the employee’s death by someone who is not the beneficiary, you might become embroiled in a surprising and unpleasant case of fraud. Instead, issue new checks once you know who the beneficiary is. Be sure to speak with the aforementioned business law lawyer about whether to deduct taxes or not.

Some businesses have advanced security procedures installed. Should your business make use of badges, codes, etc., then you need to be sure all the deceased employee’s security codes are disabled and cannot be used by anyone who goes through this person’s things. Try to retrieve a security badge or keycard if possible. 

Last but not least, you’ll want to remove the employee from payroll and website. Be sure to have any emails sent to the deceased employee to either yourself or someone high in the company pecking order. You’ll want to provide information and condolences to anyone who tries to contact the deceased — and then point them in the right direction to retain their business.