10 Steps to Letting an Employee Go With Respect


By Sharon Graham.

Having to let an employee go is an unpleasant, but often necessary, part of business. Canadian legislation is specific about how employers deal with termination of employment. Proper handling of a termination will minimize legal repercussions and demonstrate your respect for the individual.

It is important for an employer to show every employee respect and dignity throughout his or her affiliation with them. The final phase of this relationship is no different. When an organization handles it well, they display substance and humanity.

If you are an employer, you can take several steps to ensure that you are acting judiciously. Every situation is different. Before engaging in matters related to termination, it is prudent to consult your legal advisor:

  1. Construct an employment contract. Upon hiring each employee, strike a healthy business relationship by signing an employment contract. A good business endeavour with every employee starts with a written joint agreement that both parties understand. An employment contract that covers all aspects of a potential termination will help you avoid a potential lawsuit.
  2. Maintain well-written policies and procedures. A manual of policies and procedures will ensure that employees understand the consequences of their actions. The manual will help managers make decisions that are fair, reasonable, and legal. If a manager needs to undertake the unpleasant task of terminating an employee, clear and visible guidelines will help facilitate the process.
  3. Handle all employees consistently. When dealing with an issue related to an employee’s performance, review and comply with the employment contract and company policies. Treat all employees in the same way as their peers. Follow the same procedures for all employees and apply performance ratings consistently. Always be honest and direct with performance concerns so that employees are well informed.
  4. Provide several documented warnings. Before ever making a decision to terminate with cause, the company must provide proper warnings. When a specific concern comes up, discuss the situation with the employee privately. Give the employee a written warning and an opportunity to explain and improve the behaviour. Perform regular performance reviews and record all progress. Document all discussions clearly and concisely and provide regular written progress reports to the employee.
  5. Do what you can to rectify the situation. Provide support and resources that may be needed to improve the employee’s conduct. Ensure that you have done everything you can to resolve the situation. Identify any challenges that the employee may be encountering due to age, gender, race, language, physical or mental disabilities, body type, or health. Whenever possible, provide accommodation, additional training, or offer a different role where the employee is likely to succeed.
  6. Review all aspects of performance. During the weeks and months leading up the termination it is important to be consistent in all your peripheral actions related to employee performance. Prior to making the decision to terminate an employee with cause, review all records of the employee’s performance, bonuses, and incentives awarded to the employee to ensure that those activities were consistent with your decision to terminate.
  7. Provide reasonable notice or pay in lieu. Offer a notice period in accordance with all Canadian legislation, at the very minimum. During the notice period, ensure continuance of any benefits package including health, medical, disability, and/or life insurance. Allow access to your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and any other services you agreed to provide employees during their tenure. If you are terminating an employee with cause, you do not need to provide notice or continuance of benefits. However, take into account factors such as the employee’s position, contribution to the organization, and ability to find other work.
  8. Offer severance pay. It is mandatory in Canada to comply with the minimum amounts outlined in legislation. When determining the amount to offer, also take into account the employee’s position, work performed, the ability to find other work, length of service, age, disability, and other challenges you believe the individual may encounter in the transition. Ensure that you include any required vacation or holiday pay. Consider offering additional severance pay if the employee was recently recruited away from another job in order to work with your organization.
  9. Terminate the employee professionally. Plan the termination meeting in advance. Retain an outplacement professional to provide pre-termination assistance if required. Prepare a written script and ensure that two people are present at the termination meeting. Consider how you handle every aspect of the termination to avoid any undue mental distress for the employee. Keep the meeting brief. Listen to the employee when he or she is speaking, acknowledge any contribution that the employee made to the organization, and avoid arguing. Don’t require the employee to sign anything at the meeting, but provide the severance details in writing. Collect any keys and company cards. Avoid any unkind or improper behaviour, such as physically escorting an employee out of the building in front of peers. Instead, arrange a mutually convenient time for the employee to pick up any personal belongings.
  10. Offer outplacement services to facilitate the employee’s transition. Many employers offer terminated employees outplacement services. Outplacement is a humane approach to facilitate the employee’s transition by providing them with company-paid assistance. Outplacement is critical in mitigating damages to the company by helping the employee to obtain other employment as quickly as possible.


Canadian Employment, Labour & Equity Standards – Important Links

Workers Rights in Canada | Canadian Human Rights Commission | Federal Labour Standards

British Columbia | Alberta | Saskatchewan | Manitoba | Ontario

Quebec | New Brunswick | Nova Scotia | Prince Edward Island

Newfoundland and Labrador | Northwest Territories | Yukon | Nunavut


Many provincial and territorial bodies provide termination guides to help employers take proper and appropriate steps. It is always best to consult a lawyer before taking any action related to employee termination.


Sharon Graham is CANADA’S CAREER STRATEGIST and author of the top-selling BEST CANADIAN RESUMES SERIES. Founder and executive director of CAREER PROFESSIONALS OF CANADA, Sharon is committed to setting the standard for excellence in the industry. A leading authority on resume, interview, employment and career transition, Sharon provides career practitioners with tools and resources to enable them to provide exemplary services to Canadians.

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[…] When you end an employee’s employment, a termination meeting is essential. This is where you’ll inform them of the termination and provide any necessary information and documents. This will also give your employee an honorable exit. […]