Termination of employment: an HR perspective

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Termination of employment: an HR perspective

Inexperience and lack of knowledge of line managers together with blurring of the reasons for termination of employment are two of the most common mistakes that occur when organisations attempt to terminate employees.

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Inexperience and lack of knowledge of line managers together with blurring of the reasons for termination of employment are two of the most common mistakes that occur when organisations attempt to terminate employees.

 

Joydeep Hor, Partner and Team Leader, Harmers Workplace Lawyers, in a presentation at the HR Summit held in Sydney yesterday, stressed that people involved in the termination process, particularly line managers, need to maintain their credibility and reinforce consistent standards - that is make it clear what types of job behaviour will and will not be tolerated.


Some rules

Hor provided a list of 'rules' to assist line managers and HR practitioners to manage the termination of employment process:
  1. Be clear about the reason for termination. A common mistake is to 'blend' a number of reasons, such as redundancy, poor performance and misconduct, but this tends to undermine the credibility of the main reason. Also, different processes flow from each reason - for example 'redundancy' is not the employee’s fault.
     

  2. Start with the contract of employment. This may comprise various elements, such as the letter of appointment, HR policies and procedures, employee handbook contents, award and agreement provisions and implied contractual terms. 'Collateral' sources, such as share options and legislation on equal opportunity and OHS may also be relevant.
     

  3. Do your research. Study precedents, both internal ones and external cases, and pay close attention to what would be 'reasonable notice' in each situation. The latter takes into account issues such as seniority, length of service, employee mobility and future employment prospects.
     

  4. Upskill line managers. Many of them lack both knowledge of termination of employment law and practice and the necessary 'people skills' to handle the process. Explain the 'why' as well as the 'what'.
     

  5. Maintain perspective. Don’t over-focus on processes and be able to justify your actions to an independent person at any time. If the line manager becomes too close to the action for comfort, reduce his/her involvement.
     

  6. Recognise all affected stakeholders. Apart from the employee, these may include co-workers (who will form opinions on what happened), other managers, customers, the employee’s family and the organisation’s reputation. Manage the consequences with these people in mind.
     

  7. Make the exit sensitive, but sensible. Don’t publicly embarrass the employee, nor presume to know what is best for him/her. Recognise issues such as long service and relationships formed with other employees. Recognise individual circumstances and try to accommodate them where possible.
     

  8. Avoid a culture of negotiation. Be firm but fair. Don’t let it become apparent that if employees complain loudly enough, they can negotiate a better deal.
     

  9. Know the legal consequences and assess the risks. For example, reinstatement is still the primary remedy for cases of unfair dismissal.

For further information email Joydeep Hor.

 

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