How to Terminate an Employee?

How to Terminate an Employee?

One of the most difficult aspects of management is firing an employee. It is a delicate process that demands careful planning and execution to ensure fairness and legal compliance. This article will look at the process of firing an employee at work, both with reason and without reason, and offer tips on how to write an effective employee termination letter, including a sample form.

"Firing people is the riskiest thing you can do at work with your clothes on" (J. Sherperd. Firing At Will, 2011). Hence, it is critical to fire an employee professionally and ethically. As a manager, you must not only know what to do when firing an employee, but you must also know what not to do. Understanding how to manage this delicate procedure ensures a quick and effective conclusion.

It is important to note that employee terminations can be both transactional and emotional. Terminations must be handled with extreme caution to maintain employee engagement and morale. "An employee getting fired is a high-stress event… also for the employees who remain after the termination" (J. Sherperd. Firing At Will, 2011). It is also important to communicate properly with your other employees to ensure that the firing does not negatively influence morale. This necessitates transparency, but it must be handled carefully as you do not want to invade the fired employee's privacy.

Related: Why CEOs Get Fired

How do you Fire an employee at work?

Managers must take note of the following steps to ensure that the termination process is done smoothly and in compliance with the labour law:

Step 1: Prepare


The first step is to ensure that all of the necessary information and documents are compiled. For example, if you are firing an employee due to poor performance, you must have that documentation ready. Collect any information you have gathered from previous performance reports. If you are firing an employee because they broke a rule in the employee handbook, also have that handy.

Then, begin to consider what you want to say. You must ensure you prepare well for this. Consider writing down exactly what you want to say, bearing in mind that the work relationship must always be professional. When possible, the organization should have an HR specialist present.

Step 2: Consult the HR and legal Team

HR and Legal teams will be able to assist you to ensure that you are following company policies and labour stipulations. This ensures that the termination process goes smoothly. Consult with your HR and legal departments to ensure you are ticking all the right boxes.

Step 3: Select the Appropriate Time and Place

Choose the day and time for the termination with care. Some experts disagree on choosing when to fire someone, they all agree on the significance of having a strong business justification for your choice of time and day to fire someone. Choose a time and date to meet with the employee in a private area away from other staff. Figure out a meeting time that allows the employee to gather their belongings discreetly, out of sight of other employees, immediately afterwards.

Step 4: Deliver the News



Conduct a face-to-face meeting. An HR Specialist needs to be present during the termination meeting. When you start the meeting, get right to the subject. Avoid small conversations. The language you use to fire an employee should be brief and to the point. Do not dally. Begin the meeting by greeting the employee and informing them of the purpose of the meeting.

Do not discuss; instead, be direct. The subject is not up for debate. The organization has reached a decision that cannot be changed. In one or two short phrases, state the cause for the termination, and then inform the person directly that they have been fired. Make use of the past tense. Avoid phrases like "will be fired/terminated" and say, "Your employment has been terminated" or "You have been fired" instead. Other statements to avoid saying during the meeting are:

  • "I understand how you feel",
  • "You should have known",
  • "It hurts right now, but this could be a good thing".

Focus the individual's attention on what comes next. Please stick to the essential things and provide the necessary information such as pay and benefits due to them, hand-over and take-over of ongoing projects and submission of company assets.

If the employee tries to dispute or lashes out at you, resist the need to reciprocate. Negative reactions can be expected after delivering such news. However, avoid falling into the trap of apologizing, taking responsibility, or making the meeting about yourself. Comments like "This is hard for me" not only do not bring comfort to the employee but also imply that the situation is just as horrible for you as it is for them.

Rather, express your remorse in words where "personal responsibility lies squarely on the individual." State something like, "I'm sorry that the situation has reached this point."

Wrap up the meeting by effecting processes to collect company property such as keys, access badges, laptop computers, and cell phones. Also, provide all necessary documentation, such as the termination letter, the final pay slip, and any other forms required.

What are the 5 fair reasons for dismissal?

  • Poor Performance: Consistently poor performance in the face of coaching, feedback, and opportunities for change.
  • Misconduct, including policy violations, unethical behavior, harassment, and workplace violence.
  • When an employee's function is rendered redundant due to organizational changes, economic conditions, or automation.
  • Employee incapacity: The inability of an employee to perform their job owing to physical or mental health difficulties substantiated by medical documentation.

Termination without Cause

Can an employee be terminated without cause? Yes, companies have the legal power to fire employees without cause in many employment-at-will organizations. Employment at will means that an employer can fire an employee at any time and for any cause as long as it is not illegal or violates contractual commitments.

It is important to note that this is not one-sided and that employees have the same power to resign without reason. "In other words, you are employed as long as both of you, the employer and the employee, wish you to be employed." (J. Sherperd. Firing At Will, 2011).

Terminating an employee without cause is a relatively simple process:

  1. Examine the employment contract and any related corporate policies to confirm no restrictions on at-will termination.
  2. Speak with HR and Legal before starting to ensure you comply with applicable laws and regulations.
  3. Prepare for the meeting and ensure you have all of the relevant papers and documents in order, such as the employee's termination letter.
  4. Schedule a private meeting with the employee to communicate the news professionally and compassionately. Declare that the termination occurred without cause.
  5. Collect any company-owned items, issue the final pay check, and notify the employee of any benefits continuation or severance as per business policy.
  6. Keep complete notes of the termination meeting, including the date, time, place, attendees, and the reason for termination.

An employee termination letter

An employee termination letter is a formal document that verifies the discharge of an employee. This is a document that must be provided to the employee after you have informed them of their termination verbally in a meeting.

It should provide important information, be professional, and demonstrate empathy. It is vital to maintain the following as you develop the letter: tone and compliance. Furthermore, it is in everyone's best interest to end the employment relationship with the employee with dignity, and a completely compliant termination letter reduces the possibility of a lawsuit.

Consider consulting the HR and legal Team to ensure that you develop the letter properly and use the correct terminology. Employers use termination letters in the same way that employees use resignation letters when leaving their jobs. This termination letter should include all pertinent information for the employee, for example, include the following:

  • Reason for termination (or cause for termination)
  • If applicable, severance pay or a severance agreement
  • Information about health insurance
  • Information on the final pay-out

Ensure that you include the following information in your letter:

  1. A formal header: Include your company's name, address, and phone number.
  2. A salutation: Use a respectful and professional tone when addressing the employee by name.
  3. Reasons for termination: Be explicit about the reason for firing, noting particular occurrences or performance difficulties.
  4. Termination date: Indicate the last working day and, if relevant, any transition period.
  5. Explain any severance benefits: Outline any severance money, accrued vacation days, or continuation of benefits under your company's policy.
  6. Give the following instructions: Inform the employee about returning business property and other logistics.
  7. Provide contact information: If you have any queries or issues, please get in touch with HR or a contact person.

Related: To Quit or to Get Fired: That is the Question

Employee Termination Letter Template

Below is a template for a good termination of employment letter:

[The Letterhead of Your Company]


[Name of Employee]

[Employee's Name]

Dear [Name of Employee],

I am writing to notify you that you will be leaving [Company Name] on [Termination Date]. This decision is being made due to [Reason for Termination], which includes [particular facts about the reason].

[Optional: If applicable, include severance pay and other pertinent information.]

We recognize this is a difficult moment for you and are committed to assisting you as you leave the organization. For any inquiries or help, please contact [HR Contact Name] at [HR Contact Email/Phone].

Please return all corporate property by [Return Date], including [list of things].

We thank you for your efforts to [Company Name] and wish you the best in your future endeavours.


[Your Full name]

[Your Job Title]

For documentation purposes, use the [Company Name].

Related: 5 Things To Do Before You Get Fired


Terminating an employee is a delicate and difficult process. However, the process is made easier by following proper protocols and communicating effectively and politely. You may ensure a smoother transition for the departing employee and your organization. Always engage with HR and legal specialists to guarantee compliance with applicable rules and regulations.

Natasha Chimphondah
This article was written by Natasha a Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd

Related Articles


Sign up now to get updated on latest posts and relevant career opportunities