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Making the decision to terminate an employee is never easy. In fact, business owners often say this is one of the toughest tasks they have performed even if the situation warrants it.
You have invested time in recruiting, hiring and training this individual, but you know it is not working out. They could be having issues with absenteeism or tardiness. They might be negative and spreading that to your other employees and customers.

Whatever the reason, you need to decide your next move. The behaviours you see now are more than likely what you will continue to see, as current behaviour often predicts future behaviour. To protect yourself and your business, it is important you follow these steps before firing an employee.

1/ Company policy and employee handbook

Every business should have an up-to-date employee handbook. This should detail everything from hours of operation, expectations, dress code and termination. New employees should be required to read the handbook within the first few days of employment and sign saying they agree to all the policies. This makes it easier for you to discuss non-compliance to an issue such as absenteeism.

2/ Job description

All employees should receive a full job description, including responsibilities and daily expectations of the role they have been hired for. New employees should receive verbal directions about the role within the first month, along with training and support. This sets the clear direction and detailed documentation.

3/ Set goals

Providing goals is a great way to set expectations and track results. If part of the reason for terminating an employee is poor performance, but they have never received expectations of what they need to achieve, you may be setting yourself up for liability. Communicate expectations early, measure and hold employees accountable to results.

4/ One-on-one coaching

Set every employee up for success by scheduling the time to personally give them the direction they need to do well. If you have done that and they are still not performing to your standards then take the opportunity to do some one-on-one coaching. Not only will this give you some dedicated personal time with the employee, it will show if they are willing and eager to change to keep the role.

5/ Discussion

Once you have determined there is an issue, it’s time to start some actions towards a potential dismissal. Let’s use the example of tardiness. This employee has been late five times in their first 90 days. Although you have mentioned it in passing, it is time for a serious discussion. Take the employee to a private room, tell them there is an issue that needs to be discussed, give them the facts and tell them what your expectations are going forward. Document and file in their personnel file.

6/ Written discipline

The issue has happened again and you are moving to termination. Write up a discipline letter, bring the employee into another meeting to go over the letter. Have them sign and let them know the consequences of it happening again. File in a personnel file.

7/ Written termination letter

Prepare a termination letter that indicates what the last day of work will be and the amount of severance you will be paying. If you’re not sure about releasing an employee within their probation, with cause after their probation, or without cause, then it is important to look up the employment and labour standards for your province. Keep the letter short and only put in the facts that are required.

8/ Formal exit plan

Plan the day and time you will terminate the employee. It’s better to do it early in the week versus waiting until a Friday or Saturday so the employee has time to search for other job openings. As well, don’t wait until the end of the day. Ask the employee to come in a few minutes before other employees and terminate at the beginning of the day. Keep the discussion to the facts, don’t allow it to be drawn out into conversations as to why they are not working out for liability and walk them to the door.

9/ Consult with an HR consultant or employment lawyer

If you are unsure about any part of the

termination or are concerned about legal issues, consult an human resources

expert or employment lawyer. They can

help you prepare a termination letter and any other documentation that is required.

10/ Plan a follow-up staff meeting

Make plans to meet with your team directly after letting the employee go. It gives you the chance to explain what has transpired and plans for finding another employee quickly. Team members may have questions or concerns that you address to the group or ask them to discuss with you privately. This meeting is to ensure the team knows what is going on.

Last notes: Termination is hard on you, the team and the employee. Regardless of the issues surrounding the reason for the termination, treat the employee with respect and dignity as they will take this hard nonetheless. Treat them as you would want to be treated in a similar situation. Be kind, compassionate and professional.