After discovering her boyfriend has been unfaithful, Boo – the title character’s best friend and co-owner of her café – intentionally walks out into a cycle path, with the aim of hospitalising herself and winning back her boyfriend. Unfortunately, her injuries are far worse than she planned, and she is killed along with two other people. How can organisations best deal with the sudden death of an employee?
The death of an employee – especially if it’s unexpected – is one of the hardest things an organisation can go through, says Belfast-based HR business partner Nicola Barber. The key, she says, is communication: “Work out how best to report the news to employees in a timely and compassionate way, and check with the person’s family first if necessary. You should also recognise that staff may need professional support, so think about directing them to an EAP or counselling service.”
There are also practical considerations, says Barber. “Be flexible if staff need time away for support,” she says. “Also, make sure your bereavement policy covers the death of a colleague, and check whether employees’ next of kin details are up to date.”
HR professionals should also take time for themselves if needed, adds Barber. “You have to deal with others being upset when you’re upset too. We’re all human.”
It’s important to maintain communication when the person is replaced. “It’s not about rushing in and getting someone new,” says Barber. “But it’s bound to be difficult, so just keep the supportive conversations going.”