Guidelines when dealing with the death of a current staff member


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 is intended as guidance to ensure that processes are put in place as effectively and sensitively as possible. The guidance is in two parts. The first section outlines who should be notified within the University and by whom. Ideally, notification should take place within 24 hours of the University receiving news of the employee’s death (or the next working day if informed during the evening, weekend or University closure). The second part outlines in detail the responsibilities of each person/office. The summary table at the end of these guidelines supplies contact names and contact details of those that may need to be notified.

Please note that these guidelines are for dealing with the death of a current member of staff (which may also include Emeritus Professors). The death of retired staff should be reported to the Pensions Office in the first instance. 

In the event of the death of a member of staff, it is important that all appropriate personnel are informed. The route by which the notification reaches the University cannot be controlled but thereafter it is the responsibility of the College/Service and Human Resources to coordinate the dissemination of information. 

Whoever receives notification of the death should ensure that they:

  • get the name of the person informing the University, their relationship to the deceased and their contact details
  • get the name of the deceased and place of work; and
  • inform the notifier that the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of College/Head of Service or another delegated member of staff will be in contact with them.

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor of College/Head of Service (or their deputy in the event of their absence) will be responsible for the following:

  • Contacting the person who notified the University of the death to express sympathy, obtain further details on date and cause of death and details of the funeral and if a representative from the University or colleagues can attend. They may also arrange for any personal effects to be returned (although this may be discussed at a later date if appropriate).
  • Informing the relevant Human Resources Business Partner/Manager who will need the employee’s name and College/Service, date and cause of death, name and address of surviving spouse/dependant (if possible) and details of funeral arrangements (if possible)
  • Informing colleagues within the College/Service
  • Informing the University Safety Advisor (if appropriate)

The relevant Human Resources Business Partner/Manager will inform the Director of Human Resources and the Pension and Reward Advisor. They will also be responsible for informing the following, as appropriate:

  • Human Resources Employee Services Team
  • The Payroll Supervisor
  • The Registrar and Secretary who will inform the Vice Chancellor, the line managing Deputy Vice Chancellor and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor as appropriate
  • Estate Patrol (if appropriate)
  • University Librarian
  • Director of Finance
  • Director of Communications and Corporate Relations and the Press Office
  • Chaplaincy Team
  • Occupational Health Service
  • Insurance, Audit and Risk Manager (but only if the death is due to an accident that occurred whilst the member of staff was carrying out his/her University related activities (including commuting).
  • Main reception

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The following procedure is to be followed in the event of the death of a member of staff. It is essential that information is disseminated sensitively in order to alleviate any further distress to relatives, colleagues and students.

Responsibility of Pro-Vice-Chancellor (PVC) of College/Head of Service

  • The PVC of College/Head of Service will arrange for a letter of sympathy to be sent on behalf of the University to the next of kin.
  • The PVC of College/Head of Service will inform staff and students (if applicable). The PVC/Head may consider whether it would be appropriate to call a special staff meeting to inform colleagues. When colleagues are being informed of the death, they should also be made aware that they can contact Occupational Health, the Chaplaincy Team or Human Resources for support should they require it. 
  • The PVC of College/Head of Service may also wish to consider whether any former members of staff and students need to be notified.
  • Depending on the nature of the circumstances, the PVC of College/Head of Service may wish to consider removing photographs (and other references) of the member of staff concerned, from the University website and from notice boards.
  • The PVC of College/Head of Service also may wish to consider ensuring that the member of staff’s e-mail account and telephone are redirected to another nominated member of staff in the College/Service with immediate effect.
  • The PVC of College/Head of Service should ensure that the College’s/Service’s personnel records are amended so that no inappropriate contact is made.
  • Arrangements should be made for representation at the funeral (if the family has agreed to this).
  • The College/Service will also be responsible for dealing sensitively with any personal belongings held within the University in conjunction with relatives of the deceased.
  • The PVC of College/Head of Service will notify staff about funeral arrangements (if appropriate). Requests for time off to attend the funeral should be reviewed sensitively.
  • The PVC of College/Head of Service in conjunction with the IT Service Help Desk will ensure that the employee is de-registered from local systems and other lists as appropriate (e.g. School/Service web pages, University phone list).
  • Any student-related processes involving the staff member should be redirected and Education & Student Experience contacted if necessary.

Responsibility of Human Resources (HR)

  • HR will amend the employee’s personnel records, so that no inappropriate contact is made. 
  • HR will report the death to Senate and/or Council.
  • The Payroll Supervisor will ensure that the final salary is calculated along with any other entitlements (eg any expense claims in the system). This information together with the final pay slip will be passed to the relevant HR Business Partner/Manager. They will then contact the next of kin to arrange for payment to be made to the deceased’s estate, normally to the Executives of the Estate.
  • Where there is an overpayment of salary ie if the death occurs or notification is given after the payroll has been run, monies will not be reclaimed if it is equivalent to less than one month’s salary. Where more than one month’s salary has been overpaid, the Payroll Supervisor will inform the relevant HR Business Partner / Manager of the amount and any excess over one month’s salary should be requested to be returned by the deceased’s estate. 
  • The P45 issued to HMRC should state either the actual date of death if pay has been stopped at that date or the last day of the month that the death occurred if any overpayment has been made. The entire P45 is sent to HMRC; no part of the P45 is required to be passed to the deceased’s estate.
  • The Pension & Reward Advisor will ascertain if the deceased is a member of the pension arrangements run by the University. If so, the Pension & Reward Advisor will then contact the next of kin (usually done after the funeral has taken place) and will liaise direct with them and the pension scheme administrators with regard to the benefits due and any requirements needed to settle them.

Responsibility of Finance Services

  • The Director of Finance will ensure that no invoices are sent to the deceased’s address, and deal with any other financial matters, eg if member of staff had a University credit card.
  • For academic staff the Director of Finance will liaise with the College to ensure that appropriate action is taken to inform any funders which the academic may have been working with.

Responsibility of Communication and Corporate Relations

  • If there is likely to be press interest in a death, Communication and Corporate Relations will liaise with the College/Service to agree a strategy for handling the media. No information should be given to any external enquirer; instead they should be referred to Communication and Corporate Relations (Press Office). Communication and Corporate Relations will also liaise with the College/Service to coordinate any internal communication via the Weekly Bulletin.

Responsibility of the University Librarian

  • The University Librarian will remove the member of staff from library records and ensure that no invoices are sent to the deceased’s address.

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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 Incident Plan should be followed.

Staff notification list

Please note Not all contacts need to be notified – please refer to the procedure.

Family of deceased/person who informed University of death to only be contacted by

To be contacted by Pro-Vice-Chancellor of College/Head of Service

Name  TitlePhone 

See College/Service contacts                   

Human Resources Business Partners/Managers see contacts
Mike Wetherell Head of Safety, Health and Environment 6345

To be contacted by relevant Human Resources Business Partner/Manager

Name Title Phone 
Mike Shore-Nye Registrar & Secretary 3005
Imelda Rogers Director of Human Resources 3117
Alison Rose Pension and Reward Advisor 3088 Lazenby Chaplain and Multifaith Team 5858
Karen Markes Occupational Health Manager 2217
Jane Chafer Director of Communications and Corporate Relations 3146
Rob Mitchell Assistant Director - Communications 5020
Rob Tinley Head of Employee Services 2060
Andrew Connolly Chief Financial Officer 3093
Katherine Baro Library Services Manager 6153
Richard Heath Head of Security 5447
Alan Hill Chief Information Digital Officer 2272
Paul Hirst Insurance, Audit and Risk Manager 3930
Main Reception   3500

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Support available

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

Occupational Health

Care first

Exeter Bereavement and Grief Support Booklet