What is

Employee Termination


Employee termination is when a company decides to end an employee's job & happens for various reasons, like poor performance, changes in the business & more.

Employee termination is when a company decides to end an employee's job. It happens for different reasons, like poor performance, misconduct, or changes in the business. Sometimes, employees might leave on their own, and that's called a resignation.

When termination happens, it's essential to follow legal rules and treat employees fairly.

Good termination practices help keep a positive work environment and protect the company's reputation. It's never easy, but handling terminations properly shows respect for both the departing employee and the rest of the team.

Types of Employee Termination

Companies go about termination in several different ways. 

Voluntary Termination: When an employee decides to leave on their own.

Involuntary Termination:
When the company decides to end an employee's job.

Temporary termination due to factors beyond employees' control.

Letting an employee go for serious misconduct.

Resignation: When an employee decides to leave and tells their employer.

Termination for Cause:
Dismissing an employee for breaking specific contract terms.

Regardless of the route you take, it's important to handle terminations carefully and fairly to protect everyone involved.

Laws Surrounding Termination 

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations surrounding termination, which vary from country to country.

For example, did you know that employers are legally allowed to terminate employees without cause in the United States? This is referred to as “at-will employment”, and differs from the employment relationship you’ll see in most countries worldwide. 

Standard practice in the majority of countries worldwide is not at-will employment. To illustrate the fundamental way that at-will employment stands out, let’s explore what it means to provide cause for termination. 

  • Just cause: is a serious reason for termination, usually involving severe misconduct, like theft or harassment. It's a strict standard, and the employee may not get severance pay.
  • Cause: is a valid reason for termination, but not as severe as just cause. It could include poor performance or repeated lateness. The employee may still get some termination benefits.

Both must comply with employment laws and contracts for a fair termination process. In at-will employment, employers don’t have to provide cause. However, exceptions exist where just cause may be required based on employment contracts, collective bargaining agreements, or specific state laws. In countries that don’t practice at-will employment, such as Canada, employers are legally required to provide cause for termination. 

How to Handle Termination 

Termination isn’t a walk in the park. So, it’s important to know how to go about it. Here are some practical steps to do it right:

Get Prepared
Before the meeting, make sure you have all the necessary info and documents about the employee's performance or conduct. This includes things like performance reviews, attendance records, and any past disciplinary actions or warnings. 

Having this information on hand helps you understand the employee's history and performance better. It also lets you explain the reasons for termination clearly and factually, minimizing misunderstandings.

Choose a Private Spot

Find a quiet and private place for the termination meeting to keep things confidential and respectful. This ensures that sensitive matters are discussed privately, protecting the employee's dignity and privacy. It also allows them to express themselves freely and ask questions without feeling judged. 

Be Clear and Direct

When you break the news, be honest and straightforward - no beating around the bush. Use clear and simple language to explain the reasons for ‌termination. It might be tough, but it shows respect for the employee and helps them understand the situation better. Being direct is the best way to handle it with honesty and integrity.

Show Empathy

Losing a job is tough, so show understanding and empathy during the conversation. It can be an emotional experience, so take a moment to acknowledge their feelings and show understanding. 

Let them know you care about their well-being. Be a good listener and offer support. Avoid blaming or criticizing. Provide any available resources for their transition. Demonstrating empathy can make a difference and maintain respect during a challenging time.

Listen and Answer Questions

Actively listening and answering questions is critical during ‌termination. Let the employee ask what's on their mind and share how they feel. It helps them find closure and a sense of clarity. Try your best to be patient and understanding as they seek answers. 

Honest and transparent responses build trust, so take your time to respond thoughtfully. Importantly, remember that showing empathy and respect can make a tough situation a bit easier for them.

Stay Cool

Staying composed during the termination meeting is one of the most important things to remember. It shows professionalism and respect towards the employee. Even if emotions are running high, try to keep a calm demeanor. 

Being composed also helps you communicate clearly and avoid unnecessary tension. Plus, it sets a positive example for others and shows that the decision is based on objective factors, not personal feelings. Overall, staying cool is essential for handling situations with integrity and maintaining a respectful work environment.

Talk About Next Steps
After breaking the news of termination, address practical matters to support the employee through this transition. It’s up to you to communicate any benefits that may come their way, final paycheck details, and their last day of work. 

It’s helpful to offer assistance in collecting personal belongings. Most importantly, though, be patient with their questions and concerns. Do your best to show respect and support during this challenging time. 

Offer Support
Some employers offer assistance like career counseling and job search resources to terminated employees. It shows that you care about their well-being beyond their time with the company.

Career counseling helps employees explore new career paths and set achievable goals. Job search resources, like resume help and networking opportunities, empower them to find new opportunities quickly.

By offering this support, you show that you value their contributions and want to see them succeed in the future. It eases the emotional impact of termination and reinforces a positive employer image.

Keep It Private

Keeping the termination private is a top priority. Respect the employee's confidentiality and only inform necessary team members. Avoid sharing sensitive details and stay far away from gossip. 

To help you keep things private, conduct the termination meeting in a private setting. Going about it discretely shows empathy and helps you maintain a respectful work environment.

Collect Company Property

Collecting company property is an important step in the termination process. Make sure to get back any company belongings like key cards or laptops. Remind the employee during the meeting to return all the items they have. To stay on top of this, you can provide a checklist to go through together. 

If they have personal belongings at work, arrange for them to pick those up too. Be clear about the deadline for returning the items while also leaving room to accommodate their schedule. Handling this professionally protects the company's assets and ensures a smooth transition. Keep it respectful and understanding during this challenging time.

Follow the Rules

Always stick to the rules and follow legal guidelines and contracts when handling employee termination. This is essential to avoid any legal problems that could arise. Before proceeding with the termination, make sure you're familiar with the employment laws and regulations in your area. This will help you ensure that the termination is fair and legal.

Be clear about the reasons for the termination and avoid any discriminatory practices. Treat the employee with respect and stick to the facts during the termination meeting. If there's an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement, review it carefully and follow any specific procedures or notice requirements.

Provide any necessary notice period or severance pay as required by law or the employment contract. Keep detailed records of the termination process, including any discussions and documentation of performance issues.

If you need clarification on any legal aspects of the termination, seek advice from legal or HR experts. By following the rules and legal guidelines, you protect the company from potential legal troubles and treat employees fairly during this difficult time. It's about doing the right thing and respecting all parties involved.

Handle the Paperwork

Staying on top of paperwork is one of the most important parts of ensuring a smooth termination. Prepare a clear termination letter with essential details like the effective date and reason for termination. 

If "just cause" is involved, include specific reasons and evidence. For severance pay, prepare a comprehensive agreement covering all relevant terms. During the termination meeting, review the documents together and ensure the employee understands everything. It's about being organized and respecting employees during a tough time.