Boston-based Liberty Mutual Insurance is offering an online guide to assist with one of the most difficult of workplace crises – the death of an employee. From handling benefits to counseling coworkers, the list of actions required when a worker passes away may be rarely used, but it is long. Involving particular delicacy are the even rarer on-site deaths.

The role of the employer as a source of life insurance coverage has never been greater and is still rising, Liberty Mutual notes. The online guide, available here (Look for Life Insurance Awareness Month, Moving Forward: Addressing the Death of an Employee—A Resource), aims in part to help with the final step in that benefit’s administration. 

Many of a supervisor’s or human resource personnel’s steps at the end of a worker’s life are self-explanatory: notify emergency contact, arrange for short-term solutions for taking over the deceased’s workload and deactivate passwords and identification badges. But others, such as continuation of insurance coverage or arranging support services, require careful planning.

For example, many families wish to delay compensation and benefits conversations until after the funeral or memorial services, while others may find this discussion helpful to making arrangements and covering final expenses. Plan managers will need to be thorough in making sure their obligations are being met, according to Liberty Mutual, but discreet in their handling.

Of course, death can be traumatizing to coworkers as well as family. Employee assistance programs can be useful when employees are close, and productivity and morale will have to be monitored for some time afterwards. These issues can be exacerbated when death occurs at the office.

Apart from contacting emergency services and following through with your emergency action plan, onsite death requires special action on the part of managers and supervisors, Liberty Mutual's experts say. Compensation carriers often offer special benefits for on-the-job fatalities, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration must be notified within eight hours if the death.

“An employee’s death can have a dramatic impact on a company,” notes Heather Luiz, disability, life and leave product manager at Liberty Mutual. “Managing that impact can be challenging, especially since employers rarely deal with such an event.”

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