Be Prepared: Terminate Employees with Care

Terminating an employee is one of the most difficult tasks an employer faces.  The terminations that I have experienced in my career as an HR professional have always been filled with emotion from both the employee and employer.  Regardless of the reason for the termination, the message needs to be communicated by the employer in a calm, objective, and rational manner.   The best way to carry-out a termination in this manner is to ensure that you are prepared. 

Steps to prepare you for the termination meeting

Document behavior by using your progressive discipline process

Prepare by ensuring that the reasons for the termination have been properly documented.  It is critical that these records be maintained and produced in the event that an employee challenges any disciplinary action including termination. 

Consult with your support departments

Discuss the circumstances to terminate an employee with your HR and legal advisor to help you understand what is required for pay in keeping with employment standards and common law.      

It is also advisable to consult with your payroll and group benefits department to properly calculate final pay and deposit transactions required by employment standards.  You should also inform your IT department so they can properly cancel passwords for computers, and building access. 

Complete the paperwork in advance of the meeting

With the information you have collected from your support departments, you are now able to prepare a termination letter with the details such as:

  • The date of the termination;
  • Whether the notice period will be working or pay in lieu;
  • The reason for the termination (if for just cause);
  • The date final pay will be deposited;
  • The date the release letter needs to be returned to receive common law pay (not for cause terminations);
  • The date group benefits will terminate and;
  • A detailed account of the company items to be a returned.

Bring two copies into the meeting – one for the employee, and one for you to reference during the discussion and place in the employee’s personnel file when the meeting is complete.

Another way to be prepared is to review the documentation and the message to be communicated to the employee with the second person who will be attending the termination meeting.

Arrange to have HR or another manager/supervisor to attend the meeting

From an HR best practices and legal stand point, it is recommended to identify a second person to attend the termination meeting as a witness to the conversation should statements of the termination meeting be required for a wrongful dismissal claim in the future.  If the workplace is unionized, the collective agreement will outline the position that will need to be present for terminations meetings to provide proper union representation for disciplinary reasons.

Conduct terminations on any day of the week, other than Friday

Employees need immediate access to support services such as counselling, legal, or employment insurance when given the news their employment is terminated.  By terminating employees on Friday or on a weekend, those services are less likely to be available.   

After Termination

Collect the employee’s personal items

Choose a method that will create as little disruption as possible to the business operations, and to keep the dignity of the employee collecting their personal items. Depending on the circumstance of their termination, use one of the following supervised methods:

  • The employee packs personal items immediately after termination meeting.
  • Arrange a time after hours where the employee can pack their personal items.
  • Mail/courier or deliver personal items to the employee’s home address.

Ensure the well-being of the employee

When an employee receives the news that their employment has been terminated it can send employees into a state of shock and they may demonstrate behaviors which require you to consider the following:

  • Call or suggest the employee contact their emergency contact to come pick them up.
  • Arrange and pay for transportation home (taxi, bus, flight).
  • Communicate and give a business card to the employee as to who to contact for questions about their termination after they leave.
  • Use discretion as to whether or not the employee will be given the opportunity to say good-bye to employees after the termination meeting.

Communicate the termination to the organization

Considering confidentiality and your organization’s HR best practices, avoid announcing any details of the employee’s termination.  You may indicate they are no longer with the organization and to forward communication and work requests to another named employee until the position is filled permanently or until directed otherwise with any further questions to be directed to the department manager.

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