Professional, Respectful Terminations

There comes a time when a decision about the future of an employee who is struggling with their position must be made.  It is not a decision that should be made in haste.  This is a strategic decision and if not done properly can cost the company in many different ways.  The cost to terminate an employee can be measured by both financial and emotional tolls.

Each province and territory will have a set of employment standards that must be followed by an employer who is looking to terminate an employee.  There is also Canadian Human Rights Legislation that must be considered.  When terminating an employee with difficult circumstances (such as just cause) it is always important to consult an employment lawyer.  Below are a few of the things you should consider when making your decision.

Document – when the termination is for reasons such as performance or attendance issues, it is very important to document the steps taken to attempt to improve the issue.  You must document conversations you have with the employee, the steps agreed upon to correct the issues, set a date to review the progress and repeat.

Treat the Employee with respect – Terminating an employee is a very difficult decision to make, but it is the employee that will have the longer term effects.  It is so important to remember that above all else they are a person and deserve to be treated with respect.  Make sure that the conversation happens in a neutral place and the employee should be made to feel as comfortable as possible. Be truthful, stick to the facts and do not personalize the termination.  It is important to remember that the more confrontation there is during a termination, the more likely hood there will be legal repercussions to deal with.

Pay the employee at the time of termination when possible.  This should include the pay in lieu of notice, vacation pay and any other money owed to them.  If this is not possible, then make sure you are aware of the requirements for employers as legislated with the employment standards.

Utilize a termination letter – Some people feel that this is the more humane way to deal with the situation.  If this is a method that you choose, make sure that the letter details the reason for the termination, the terms that need to be met (such as final pay) and again keep everything to the facts.  Let the employee read the letter, have a short discussion about the termination.  Although it is human nature to want to ease the pain of this difficult situation, do not compliment the employee or really empathize with them.  At the end of the day this is a business decision, keep it that way.

Always have a witness –  This is by far one of the most important aspects of termination.  Despite our best efforts, these situations can result in legal issues.  This is the best way to protect yourself and the company.  Make sure that the witness does not talk; they are only there to witness and take notes.

Terminating an employee is a stressful and emotional time for all parties.  Remember to consult your employment lawyer if you have any questions and always prior to the termination.  They can give you the advice you need to protect yourself and your company from any future legal action.


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