How To Fire An Employee Properly - Human Resources Hero

How To Fire An Employee Properly

So you have an employee that you need to terminate. You’ve tried to resolve the issues, documented the steps you’ve taken and have made a final decision that the employee needs to go. Now it’s time to meet the employee and officially terminate them. 

If you find yourself feeling uncomfortable in this situation, you’re not alone. Having to fire an employee can be one of the most anxiety provoking situations a manager or business owner has to face. But with the right plan, employee terminations can – and do – go smoothly.

8 things to consider while firing an employee

Telling an employee that they are terminated may sound easy, but a lot of planning should go into the decision and meeting. Here are 8 critical things to consider when firing an employee.

1) Timing is everything

A lot goes into picking the right place and time to terminate an employee. You want to consider the activity level in the workplace, whether or not the terminated employee will have time to collect personal items, as well as the day of the week.  Terminating an employee during the work week allows the employee to immediately contact the state unemployment office and to begin making contacts with a career counselor.

HR professionals debate whether employees should be terminate at the beginning middle or end of the week, and there are certainly benefits and drawbacks to each of these. Most HR professionals have considered the best time to be Monday or Friday, but this will ultimately be up to you and your own personal preference.

Terminating an employee on Monday allows the employee to utilize the rest of the week to apply for unemployment and begin searching for new jobs while businesses are open. On the other hand, waiting until Friday allows the employee to have the weekend to compose themselves before beginning this whole process.

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2) Have all the right people in the meeting

The next thing you’re going to want to do is designate a witness to be present during the termination.  This is typically the HR Manager or another manager that has been properly trained. Always give the termination news in person and in private. Never terminate someone by email telephone or written note. Don’t terminate the employee publicly. Organize a time for the meeting to be carried out with the employee’s supervisor together with an HR representative or a senior manager. HR professionals recommend having at least two people from management or HR present along with the employee at this meeting.

3) Be clear and firm

Tell the employee the reason for the termination decision and provide a few specific examples of the issues and warnings leading up to the company’s decision. Do not debate the merits of the decision and make it clear to the employee that the decision is final and not up for discussion or reconsideration.

4) Keep it short

Try to keep the meeting brief and to-the-point. You don’t want to get into a situation where you dive into  unnecessary waters or you have the employee make appeals. The decision has already been made and this meeting is literally there to communicate that to the employee. The termination is to be immediate.

5) Be ready

Be ready to provide the employee with required information and pay. Provide required pamphlets on unemployment benefits and COBRA and discuss the employee’s rights under these laws if applicable. Have the final check ready for the employee and any needed notice of termination or layoff. Make sure you verify your state final pay and accrued paid leave requirements during the meeting and be prepared to discuss state-specific matters such as vacation, sick time and PTO payouts.

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Some states have certain rules on whether or not employers must pay out accrued and unused PTO or sick time hours. Be familiar with your local final paycheck rules.

Be aware that every state has a statute or some rule or regulation that governs wage deduction. Generally employers want to recoup losses for destroyed equipment or unreturned uniforms but these types of deductions are almost always not permitted. Finally don’t go into too much detail on unemployment, give the employee the required information and direct them to their state unemployment office for more detailed questions.

6) Be professional

Being terminated from a job can be traumatic, so give the employee time to compose themselves before having to face co-workers. It’s not unreasonable to expect an employee to have a negative or emotional reaction to the news of their firing, so unless the employee reacts abusively, allow them time to gather their things and leave in an unobtrusive way. Once this happens, you can arrange for the deactivation of computer passwords access cards and other sensitive matters to coincide with giving the employee the news of the termination. Don’t do this before termination occurs.

7) Tell them what's next

Ask the employee to return all company property including building passes Keys office equipment credit cards and documents. Let the employee know that you plan to tell co-workers, vendors or customers about the termination and what information you’re going to be giving for a reference. This is out of fairness to the employee. It allows them to know that you’ll be letting your employees know so they can adjust appropriately, and also how they can cope with the news that they will be operating on a day-to-day basis without a former employee. Doing this will also allow the employee to know just what footing they’re on when they begin their employment search and what kind of reference you will be giving them.

8) Be thoughtful

We generally recommend that you keep any personal details about the reason for termination confidential. An employees life goes on after they leave your company and terminated employees are going to talk to others about your organization. You want your last impression with the terminated employee to be  a positive and respectful one.

Think through every termination decision and consider alternatives. Consider how your actions would be viewed by a neutral third-party or with the media if they heard both the employee and company descriptions of events. Consult with HR or legal counsel where appropriate document everything! 

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