Death in service

Guidance for departments

This guidance is for departments in the sad event of the death of a colleague - an employee or casual member of staff.

Human Resources (HR) will contact you in the event of a death in service to support you through the actions in this guidance. Your HR manager will work closely with you and will ensure that the University’s response is appropriate, efficient and sensitive to everyone affected.

Each set of circumstances will be different, and this guidance may therefore not cover every eventuality.

COVID-19: This guidance is not specifically for COVID-19 related deaths but includes information relevant to the current pandemic.

Informing Human Resources

If you become aware of the death of a colleague, please inform Kerry Hudd, Executive Assistant to the Director of HR, immediately at or on 0114 222 1601 with the colleague’s name and any other details you have at that point in time which you feel would be useful to share.

HR will provide guidance on next steps. This will include supporting you to send flowers and a letter of condolence to the family if you wish to do so. HR will also inform all the relevant sections within the University, including Security Services, Payroll, Pensions, IT, Corporate Communications, and the President and Vice-Chancellor’s office.

COVID-19: Should the person have died from COVID-19, the Executive Assistant to the Director of HR will follow the correct notification process. Departments do not need to take any additional action other than that stated in this guidance.

Supporting next of kin

Please nominate an appropriate and sufficiently senior member of staff within the department to be the single point of contact for the next of kin to avoid confusion at an already 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 death occurred and when the funeral is to take place. Asking whether colleagues of the deceased are welcome to attend and/or whether the family wish for flowers/donations
  • asking for next of kin contact details including postal address and details of dependents so that the department and University may send letters of condolence
  • explaining that if the deceased is part of a pension scheme run by the University that our pensions team will be in touch
  • reassuring next of kin that we will deal sensitively and efficiently with all other University processes such as informing payroll and speaking to close colleagues
  • arranging for personal possessions to be forwarded or collected and for the return of any department equipment
  • asking if the family is happy for us to share the news with the University community and if they would like to share any words about the person for publication on University web pages.

COVID-19: If the person has died of COVID-19, the family may wish to make this known. Please share this information with HR if it is known to you.

During the current Coronavirus pandemic, attending the funeral in person may not be possible. Please refer to the government’s coronavirus (COVID-19) information for the bereaved.

There may be some delay before the collection and return of personal possessions can be arranged. We must adhere to government guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic. However, if required, the head of department and departmental safety officer can provide further advice.

Notifying colleagues (including bereavement support)

The head of department will need to consider who in the department needs to be notified:

  • inform those closest to the employee first and deal sensitively with distressed staff, ideally face-to-face
  • 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
  • refer to HR guidance on time off for exceptional circumstances at:
  • wider notifications might include committee membership, circulation lists and research funders

Bereavement support

HR will be in touch to help provide bereavement support. You can also find details of support including from the University Chaplaincy Centre and the free, independent and confidential staff advisory line and counselling service on the University’s wellbeing web pages.

COVID-19: The government’s coronavirus (COVID-19) information for the bereaved has some useful information including a list of organisations that can support people during this distressing time.

A dedicated bereavement support service, Listening Ear, has been set up in South Yorkshire to help anyone who has lost a loved one to coronavirus and needs advice or guidance.

Additional notes:

In the case of death in the workplace or off-campus on University business: Where a death occurs whilst a member of staff is at work, whoever is first to the scene should call Security Services on 0114 222 4444 (ext. 4444). Security Services will follow their emergency procedures including liaising with the emergency services who will notify the next of kin.

If a death occurs off campus on University business, HR will ensure that Security Services has been notified.

Death of a former employee: If you become aware of the death of a former employee please inform your HR manager. If the family wishes it, HR managers will inform Corporate Communications of details for publication on our online obituary.