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Is there a Script for Terminating Employees?

February 2, 2019

Author: Dylan Snowdon

Is there a Script for Terminating Employees?

Note: If you’re looking for information on how to end employment during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Centre.

Ending someone’s employment is a serious moment in their life, and should be addressed thoughtfully and with sensitivity.  Most people assign a large amount of their identity to their job.

How you go about dismissing an employee depends on your goals.  Usually, your goal is to maintain a respectful and civil relationship, resolve any issues of potential dispute, and effect a calm exit.  The best way to achieve that goal is to ensure the employee feels that they have some control. Giving people a choice in how they receive a severance payment, whether or not to go to an outplacement service, or how their exit is messaged within the company makes people feel more like they are in control and less likely to emotionally lash out.

It is also important to make the employee feel safe.  If appropriate in the circumstances, you can tell the employee that the termination is not related to performance, knowledge or skill. You can also consider whether you are truthfully able to provide a positive reference.  Having a positive reference letter already in the termination documents can assist the employee in their job search efforts and in messaging the termination of their employment with friends and family.

Termination Meeting

In conducting a termination meeting, we recommend the following steps in most circumstances:

  1. Avoid conducting termination meetings on Fridays.  You want to ensure that the employee is able to access services such as placement agencies and crisis counselling without having to wait through the weekend.  If your company has an Employee Assistance Program, you may want to ensure that the employee will have access to counselling for the first few weeks following the termination.
  2. Make arrangements to have computer access locked for the employee at the start of the meeting and decide in advance if the employee will be permitted to pack their own personal belongings or if they will be escorted out with personal belongings couriered to them after the meeting.
  3. Have a letter ready to provide the employee detailing what is happening.  When employees are caught off-guard by a termination they often do not recall the contents of the meeting, so the termination letter should serve as a summary and have all the details regarding the termination meeting and the letter delivered personally.
  4. Have two people present, with one’s job to be a witness and note taker.  Place the notes of the meeting on the personnel file.
  5. Be honest.  It is important that no false information be given to an employee regarding the reason for their termination or how their termination will be communicated to others.  The language provided as a sample script below is only a sample, and should be adjusted to fit each particular scenario.
  6. Sample Script: Thank you for meeting with us today.  As you may know, some decisions have been made to make changes in how the business operates and some of those changes mean that we no longer require you to fill the your role with the company.  We know that this may be a surprise, so we have a letter for you setting out the details of how we will be moving forward, in summary:
    • Today will be your last day attending work.  After this meeting you can gather any personal belongings.  If you prefer, we can also send any of your personal belongings to you by courier.
    • You will receive pay for all of your wages owing and any earned but unused vacation pay;
    • You will also receive a payment in lieu of notice of termination as required under the Employment Standards Code;
    • A Record of Employment will be issued allowing you to file an Employment Insurance claim;
    • Address any other items such as additional severance payments, bonus amounts, and how benefits for any scheduled medical or dental appointments will be managed.
  7. Severance Payment.  Depending on the terms of the employee’s contract it may be necessary to provide an additional payment if sufficient working notice is not being provided.  Speaking to an employment lawyer to determine an appropriate notice period or amount is strongly recommended.
  8. Career Placement Service.  Although not required, providing a former employee with career counselling or outplacement service can be a great way to help avoid a dispute over severance pay.  Ideally, the service helps the person transition to a new role and minimizes the financial loss resulting from lost employment; but providing the service also signals that the company is supporting the employee.
  9. Keep the meeting short and professional.  Do not get drawn into a detailed discussion of the reasons for the termination.  Provide contact information for someone the employee can speak to if they have questions.

Termination of Employment For-Cause

If you are conducting a termination of employment on a for-cause basis (read our article here on just cause), you should advise the employee what the basis of that cause is without getting drawn into a detailed discussion.

If you need assistance determining whether an employee should be terminated for cause, figuring out what an appropriate severance package should be, drafting a termination letter, or any other aspect of ending an employment relationship, please contact any of the employment lawyers at Carbert Waite.