Sadly, there are times when colleagues pass away, and we know you’ll want to deal with these situations sensitively and professionally. So, we’ve created this guide to help you, as you support the colleague’s family and make sure all the necessary admin arrangements are carried out. All template letters and forms can be found on the Intranet.
If the colleague had more than one job at Co-op, the manager of their primary role (the one with most hours) should manage the Death in Service process to avoid any confusion as to who is taking care of the arrangements. If that’s you, you’ll need to keep their other managers up to date with the process.
We know you may find dealing with a colleague’s death difficult and might want to talk to someone about the situation and what you need to do - so if you need any support, contact ER Services.
1) Your direct line manager
Firstly, please share with your immediate line manager and local People Advisor that one of our colleagues has sadly passed away.
You might find it helpful to use the wording in template letter DIS2 (below) in an email or feel free to use your own.
2) HR Services
As soon as you can, you’ll need to call HR Services on 0330 606 1001 to let them know about the colleague's death. HR Services will take care of the process to end the colleague’s employment - you won’t be able to do this yourself. You’ll need to give them the following information when you call:
- Name and employee number of the deceased colleague
- Date of the colleague's death
- Cause of the colleague's death – if known at this stage
- Date of last day colleague worked
You can use template form DIS1 (below) to record information about the colleague, which you’ll need to gather to support the death in service process.
Just so you’re aware, HR Services will send the colleague’s family their final payslip with a letter offering their condolences.
After you’ve got permission from the colleague’s family, you should decide the most appropriate way of telling the team about their colleague’s death – whether this is in a team meeting or individually in person, over the phone or by email, depending on how close their relationship was. You might want to adapt the text in template DIS2 (above) for this. There’s more information below about providing support for your team.
If the colleague had more than one job with Co-op, you should tell their other managers so they can let their teams know.
As soon as possible after you learn of the colleague's death, you should send a condolence letter to their family. There’s a template condolence letter DIS3 ((DIS3A for colleagues who’ve left due to redundancy in the past 2 years - see former colleagues section below) to help you – but please add in your own thoughts and messages to make it feel personal.
If the colleague had more than one job at Co-op, you should discuss with their other managers about whether to send a combined letter for all of their roles, or whether each manager would like to send a more personal note.
We provide a free ‘Traditional Funeral’ through our Funeralcare business for colleagues who die while they are working for us, where we operate funeral homes in their area. The condolence letter that you’ll send to the family will tell them about this and what they need to do to arrange it.
If the colleague’s family would like to arrange the funeral with us, please make sure either you or the family check that the funeral home that will be used is owned by Co-op. Funeral homes owned by other Co-op societies won’t be able to offer a free funeral for our colleagues.
You should call the family’s preferred Co-op Funeralcare home ahead of their visit to explain that their loved one was a colleague and they qualify for a free funeral.
As the cost of the colleague’s funeral is covered, you should let colleagues know that they don’t need to do any fundraising to help the family to pay for it. If colleague would like to raise money in memory of the colleague who has died, support and guidance is available from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Death in service payments
There are two different types of death in service payments – one for colleagues in the pension scheme and one for colleagues who weren’t – and there are different processes for each.
The processes can take some time due to the legal requirements, so if the colleague’s family is facing financial hardship please discuss with your local People Advisor who can help raise this further.
The Co-operative Pension Scheme (Pace) members
If the deceased colleague was an active member of the Pace Pension Scheme when they died, the death in service payment is made from the pension scheme.
Once you’ve told HR Services of the colleague’s death, they’ll tell the Pensions Department who’ll email you the Death in Service (Pace Pension Scheme member) form (DIS7, below). You’ll need to fill this in and then return it to the Pensions Department to the email address it was sent from. They’ll then contact the colleague’s family to sort out the rest of the process.
Once they’ve got all the information they need, the Trustees of the Pace Pension Scheme will decide who’ll get the death in service payment. The Pensions Department will let you know a decision has been made and organise payment. There’s nothing more you need to do - but you might just want to contact the family again to check that everything’s been received.
If you have any questions about a deceased colleague who was in a pension scheme, contact the Pensions Department on 0330 606 1000. You can also visit the Co-op pensions website for more information on the death in service benefit payable.
Non-pension scheme members
If the deceased colleague wasn’t in a Co-op pension scheme when they died, the death in service payment is the colleague's annual salary – or a minimum of £5,000.
HR Services will email you a copy of the Data Request/Indemnity Form for Non-Pensioned and Redundant colleagues (DIS6). You’ll need some information from the deceased colleague’s family to complete this form, so you should arrange to meet them – there’s more information about meeting the family below.
You should ask the family for an original copy of the Death Certificate, or the Interim Death Certificate if the cause of death hasn’t been determined yet. Just so you’re aware, no copies or other documents will be accepted. If the colleague has died abroad and the Death Certificate isn’t in English, you’ll need to ask the family for a new Death Certificate in English which they can get from the Coroner.
Please send the completed form by email to email@example.com and post the Death Certificate by recorded delivery to: Co-op Pensions Department, 6th Floor, 1 Angel Square, Manchester, M60 0AG. The Death Certificate will be returned to the deceased colleague’s family by recorded delivery after the death in service payment has been made.
The Pensions team will contact the family to arrange a payment to be sent by BACS transfer. The team will also let you know when that’s happened. There’s nothing more you need to do - but you might just want to contact the family again to check that everything’s been received.
Accidental death (pension and non-pension scheme members)
If the colleague's death was the result of an accident, either inside or outside work, there may be an additional death in service payment. If you’re dealing with an accidental death, contact Insurance Services for more information on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If there’s going to be an inquest into the cause of the colleague's death, their family will get an Interim Death Certificate in the meantime. This means that we can still pay the death in service payment but we’ll have to put any accidental death payment on hold until the inquest is completed.
If the colleague's death is ruled as an accident we can then pay the additional amount. The colleague's family will need to tell you when the inquest has finished and send you the full Death Certificate. You’ll need to complete a new DIS6 or DIS7 form and follow the process as above.
If a colleague dies within two years of being made redundant, they’ll be covered by a different scheme. If you’re told about the death of a former colleague, you should tell HR Services.
Things to think about
Meeting with the deceased colleagues’ family
If the colleague wasn’t in the Pace Pension Scheme there’ll be some information you need to complete the forms – so you might need to meet with their family.
For pension scheme members, you won’t have any paperwork to ask the family to complete as Pensions will request information directly. But it’s still good to meet the family to offer them your support and to check they’ve been contacted and understand the process.
Get in touch with the colleague's family to arrange a suitable date and time - remember to be sensitive to the timing of the colleague’s funeral. Once you’ve arranged the meeting, there’s a template letter (DIS8, below) you can use to confirm the arrangements.
If the colleague wasn’t in the pension scheme, you’ll need to ask their family to bring along an original copy of the Death Certificate.
When you meet the family, make sure you have a colleague go with you - ideally someone who worked closely with the colleague who’s died. If the situation’s particularly sensitive and you’d like HR support, speak to ER Services. If the relatives don’t speak English, you may also need to arrange for an interpreter to be present – see below.
During the meeting it might be helpful to ask the family if they’re able to give you any Co-op property you know the colleague had - like a laptop, mobile phone, access pass or keys. You should also ask if there is any other support they need.
If the colleague wasn’t in the pension scheme, you’ll have been sent a form (DIS6) which you need to complete with the colleague’s family when you meet them, as follows:
- If the colleague has died of non-accidental causes, complete one copy of the form and ask their next of kin to sign it.
- If the colleague has died as a result of an accident, complete two copies of the form with identical information and ask their next of kin to sign both copies.
- If the cause of death hasn’t been established and the case is going to inquest, complete the form, ask their next of kin to sign it, and add a note to the form that the case is going to inquest.
It’s really important that the form is completed accurately as the death in service payment can’t be made without it.
Sometimes you may need to get in touch with the family again to ask them for a copy of the deceased colleague’s Will, so we can check who the executor of their estate is – the HR Benefits Team will tell you if this is needed.
Cars and IT equipment
If the colleague had a Co-op car, please call the Transport Department on 0844 600 9090 and they’ll arrange to collect it.
If the colleague had IT equipment, such as a laptop or mobile phone, that has been given back to you, call the IT Service Desk on 0330 606 1844 to arrange for this to be returned.
Completion of the process
Once the Pensions Department or the HR Benefits Team have confirmed that the death in service payment has been made, you should contact the colleague’s family again to check whether there’s anything else they need.
If you need further support
There’s a Manager Checklist on the intranet (DIS9, below), which you may find useful as a reminder of all the things you need to do when dealing with the death of a colleague.
If managers need further advice about the death in service process they should contact HR Services.
If an interpreter is needed to attend a meeting with relatives who don’t speak English, you should contact ER Services for advice.
It’s not unusual for people to experience shock, sadness and sometimes anger when told of a colleague's death. We need to provide support for these colleagues to help them in this difficult time.
Remember that many colleagues may want to attend the funeral to pay their respects – so talk to them about this and agree what can be accommodated. If the colleague had more than one Co-op job, you should make their other managers aware of the funeral arrangements so they can discuss with any other colleagues who may want to attend.
Remember we have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) who can provide colleagues with support. They can contact the EAP on 0800 069 8854. It’s independent and totally confidential. And there’s no charge for Co-op colleagues.
You may want to contact the EAP directly to let them know that a colleague has died and that they may get calls from a number of colleagues seeking support. You can also make a management referral to the EAP if the colleague doesn’t feel able to call them directly. You’ll just need to complete a referral document which the colleague must sign and then the EAP will call them.
In some circumstances it may be appropriate to provide the support of an experienced trauma counsellor. If you think this would be help, you should contact the EAP to arrange it.