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Death in service guidelines

Guidelines when dealing with the death of a current staff member

If you are notifying the University of the death of a member of staff then please see further information on who you need to contact and what information we will need.


The death of an employee can be a traumatic experience for those who are left to deal with the loss of a colleague. The information below provides guidance to assist managers and other members of staff who are faced with the difficult situation of a colleague dying.  It outlines the steps that the University and its employees should take following the death of a colleague.

There are a number of ways in which the University might be notified that an employee has died.

  • Contact by the employee's family/next of kin or told by another employee who is a close friend of the deceased.
  • The authorities.  For example, after a catastrophic event such as a natural disaster/accident.

The death of the employee may be sudden or the result of a long illness which individuals within the Faculty/Service may already be aware of.

If you are the first person to be contacted by someone connected to the deceased member (not necessarily a relative) to inform the University of the death of a member of staff please be sensitive to how they may be talking to you.

  • Offer your condolences and support;
  • Offer to call them back or chat to them at a later time if they are very upset;
  • Gently ask questions about the date and details of the death;
  • Ask who the best person is to contact for information - who do the family want the University to contact?
  • Make sure that they know that the University will do all they can to make any requests for necessary information as simple as possible;
  • Ask if there is anyone at the University they wish to contact or offer to do this on their behalf.

When following these steps following the death of an employee, line managers should be flexible and sensitive to the circumstances. 

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Next Steps

When a manager or member of staff receives notification that a colleague has died, they should immediately notify HR and the line manager of the individual who has died.

It is important that all appropriate staff are informed.  Please see the Death in Service Process. The PVC/Director of Service will wish to send condolences and inform colleagues, Payroll need to ensure that all pay details are settled and other teams such as Finance and Communications may also need to be advised.  

There are also Death in Service additional considerations that the Service/Faculty may want to consider.

It is important that all staff ensure that up-to-date contact details for themselves and their Emergency Contact are recorded in Trent Self Service (the University's HR database).

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Death on campus

If the death occurs on campus or as a result of a specific ‘critical incident’, then the Emergency Services should be contacted immediately and the procedure outlined in the Welfare incidents plan (.pdf) should be followed.

Support available

There are a number of places where support can be found at the University.  Below are listed a few:

The University EAP Spectrum Life is available 24/7 for ‘in the moment support’. In addition, up to 6 sessions of free confidential counselling is available if clinically appropriate.

The Chaplaincy is available for open conversations if you have concerns, regardless of faith or world view.

The Colleague Wellbeing web pages have resources and information on bereavement and mental health concerns.

A Grief and Bereavement group is available for colleagues – run by the chaplaincy.

NHS IAPT services – offers a free NHS talking therapies service such as counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for mental health conditions such as anxiety and low mood.

If anxiety or low mood is impacting on your function, you should speak to the person you report to discuss what they can do to support you. An Occupational Health Management Referral is also available for advice and support using reasonable adjustments if needed.

Colleague Wellbeing has a Mental Health Champions Network, Mental Health Champions are available to have open conversations about mental health and provide signposting.

Exeter Bereavement and Grief Support Booklet

Information correct as of July 2023