Termination with dignity

It is an unfortunate fact of our economic times that some employers will have to downsize their operations and lay-off staff.  When laying-off an employee there are some basic best practices HR pros counsels their clients to consider:



The goal of any termination meeting should be to preserve the employee’s dignity while meeting all legal and organizational requirements.  Accordingly, the manager (or supervisor) terminating the employee should plan out the termination, including loosely scripting-out the meeting.  Planning won’t necessarily make the lay-off any more pleasant but it could prevent costly legal mistakes. 



Termination meetings are stressful for everyone involved.  The termination meeting itself should be brief, held at the beginning of the day, in private and where there will not be any interruptions.  If a negative reaction is expected, it is advisable to have another person present during the termination meeting. 



Most employers in a downsizing situation choose to terminate the employee immediately.  Unless there is compelling reason to escort the terminated employee immediately off the premise, it is suggested that the terminated employee be given the option of personally cleaning out their desk and saying good bye to their peers.  Escorting the employee during this time is acceptable and recommended.



HR pros advises their clients to terminate on a Monday, if at all possible, and definitely not on a Friday.  Monday is recommended so the terminated employee can access legal and other support services, including visiting a Human Resources Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) office to file for Employment Insurance (EI) and start preparing for their job search.


There are a number of pieces of documentation that the employer is obligated to present at the termination meeting, including:


Termination Letter.  The Termination Letter should note the reason for lay-off, the pay-in-lieu-of-notice (and any other severance) that is being provided as well as thank the employee for their service.   


Release.  When providing pay-in-lieu-of-notice, or any other type of severance, there must be a Release.  A Release is a legal document, often complicated and definitely thorough, preventing the terminated employee from taking any legal action or making any claim against the employer.  No pay-in-lieu-of-notice, or severance, should be paid to an employee until after the Release has been signed.  An employer must give a terminated employee adequate time to take the Release (and the Termination Letter) to a lawyer for legal advise prior to signing. 


ROE (Record of Employment).  It is best practice for the employer to have the employee’s ROE available at the termination meeting.  An employer has responsibilities around an employee’s efforts to “mitigate their losses”, that is assist the employee in finding other means of supporting themselves.  Providing the employee their ROE immediately allows the employee to immediately file for EI, should they be so inclined. 


Letter of Reference.  It is a best practice to have a signed Letter of Reference at the termination meeting.  The Letter of Reference should state the employee’s length of service, position(s) held by the employee as well as general duties the employee performed in their position(s). 


HR pros recommends that the employer also have a manual cheque for all wages owed, including vacation time outstanding.  If the employee is entitled to the continuation of any existing, or any new, services and / or benefits this information should also be available for the employee at this time.


Tactically speaking, it is a good idea to have a check list of company property that need to be returned; eg. keys, laptop, pass cards, credit card, etc.  Termination meetings are stressful for everyone and it is easy to forget to collect important company property.


Finally, but very importantly, keep all details of the termination and the termination meeting confidential.  No good will come of talking about what did or didn’t happen, even if it was a positive termination meeting.

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