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Death in service

Death in service payments are paid to your family or chosen beneficiary from your pension fund if you die before you retire.

In tough economic times, death in service benefits may be considered an easy cost-cutting target. UNISON is committed to protecting them.

Death in service payments

Death in service payments are a benefit that is paid out of your pension scheme, if you die while employed, and pays a tax-free sum of money to your family or chosen beneficiary.

How much is usually paid out?

The amount paid under death in service varies but it can be anything up to four or five times your annual salary.

If your employer offers flexible benefits, you may be able to increase your death in service payment by reducing other benefits.

UNISON has negotiated arrangements with some organisations so that outstanding leave is paid as a death in service benefit. This means that, if a member dies, a sum of money equivalent to the annual leave not taken by the date of death is paid to their family or personal beneficiary.

Can I rely on death in service payments?

A death in service payment may not be enough to support your family. You may prefer to take out a life insurance policy.

What if an employer threatens to withdraw payments?

Contact your UNISON rep or steward and ask them to start talks with your employer.

If many employees oppose the cuts, the employer is more likely to back down before moving to the next step, as there may be other ways they can achieve the savings they are looking to make.

Next steps for UNISON reps

Check death in service arrangements for your workplace. You should be aware of death in service arrangements so you can advise members.

Encourage members to consider their own financial planning. It is up to individual members to decide if a death in service payment would be enough to keep their family financially secure if they die.

Encourage members to think about this and remind them that death in service benefits are not guaranteed to continue.


Death in service

  • I’m not a member of a work pension scheme. Will my family get a payment if I die?

    Possibly. Death in service payments are often based on group life insurance policies taken out by employers and are not related to pension schemes.

    Ask your employer to explain the benefits available to you.

  • How can I decide if the death in service benefit would be enough to support my family?

    Although the death in service benefit may seem like a lot of money, you may want to speak to a financial advisor to decide if a separate life insurance policy would be better for you and your family.

  • What should I do if I think my employer wants to withdraw death in service benefits?

    Tell your UNISON rep. If your UNISON rep can show that lots of people are against the change, your employer may back down.