When someone’s not quite working out on the team, what should you do? How can you avoid potential pitfalls in ending the employment relationship? Which steps can help protect your business from liability?
Terminating employees may well be the least-liked part of workplace life, but it’s important to do it right. Whether you’re the practice owner, office manager, or human resources administrator, here are eight tips to know before letting a staff member go.
- Distribute Employee Handbooks — Make sure every team member has received a copy of your practice’s employee handbook, which should be up to date on disciplinary policies. The handbook serves to communicate expectations to everyone equally and can offer you protection if an employee later takes you to court.
- Enforce Disciplinary Policy – Consistency and predictability are key. Limit the exceptions to enforcing your policies and rules.
- Document Violations — In the case of poor performance and policy violations, conversations simply aren’t enough. All issues should be in writing and acknowledged by the employee.
- Investigate Before Terminating — Did the employee sign off on having and reading a copy of the employee handbook? Have there been conversations about poor performance or company policy violations? Were they documented in writing? Get to the bottom of these issues before taking final action.
- Know the Law — Certain laws prescribe specific guidelines regarding termination. Consult your human resources manager when considering firing someone, so they can help with the research.
- Provide Notice — Put the employee on notice, including a performance improvement plan starting at a minimum 30 days. Warning of problems and giving the employee a chance at redemption can accomplish one or two things:
- Allows the employee to improve and make the changes necessary to become a better team member
- Allows the employee an opportunity to quit
In addition, giving notice helps you avoid the claim of “They never told me I was doing anything wrong.”
- Handle Termination Professionally — If an employee fails to improve after at least 30 days’ notice, it’s time to end the relationship in a professional manner:
- Conduct the termination in a private, closed-door area with at least one witness.
- Be brief and accurate, creating bullet points if necessary to help stay on track.
- Avoid sugarcoating, instead being direct and clear about the reason for termination.
- COBRA benefits
- Last paycheck
- Unemployment options
- Transportability of other insurance
Firing an employee is never easy. These crucial steps, however, ensure a more transparent process that helps you proceed with confidence, protect your interests, and map a way forward for a struggling team member.