What Is the Role of HR During an Employee Termination?

What Is the Role of HR During an Employee Termination?

Employee Termination

Human resources (HR) plays an essential role during the process of terminating an employee. Although most companies prefer to avoid terminating workers, circumstances arise in which it is unavoidable. During these times, members of the HR department ensure the process goes smoothly and professionally. They also work to ensure all involved parties are treated fairly and within the confines of the law.

HR Termination Procedures

Most companies have a policy in place for the termination of an employee. In nearly all instances, this process is carried out with the help of – or entirely by – the HR department. Human resources workers are specifically trained in the laws surrounding hiring and firing, as well as best practices for nondiscrimination. They also can help businesses protect themselves from lawsuits, such as wrongful termination cases that arise when employees claim they weren’t adequately trained or were fired for a non-fireable offense.

During the termination, a member of the HR department should be in attendance. The representative may present to the terminated employee the reasons for the firing, or a supervisor may do so while the HR representative takes notes and observes. HR is meant to serve as a neutral third party.

The HR representative present during the termination is tasked with explaining to the employee why their behavior violated a law, rule or company procedure. HR representatives have been trained in the use of specific language for this conversation, since professionalism and politeness are called for no matter the departing employee’s offense. They can answer any questions from the employee. They are also tasked with providing information about severance, last paychecks, rollover of retirement and health savings accounts, and the ability to continue health insurance coverage.

After the Termination Meeting

Human resources is not done with its job after the face-to-face termination meeting has concluded. HR representatives are expected to prepare a summary of the meeting and include it in the former employee’s file. This documentation of how all parties reacted during the meeting can be relevant in the event of a discrimination lawsuit or something less nefarious, such as a request to be rehired in the future.

Part of the employee termination process, is to get the employer’s property back. If this did not occur during the termination meeting, it falls to HR to arrange the collection of keys, vehicles, computers, phones or important documents from the former employee at a later time. The HR representative also should be ready to answer questions from the worker about benefits or other coverage after the termination meeting. Termination can be overwhelming for employees, and they may think of inquiries later after they begin to consider their next steps.

Human resources can also work with managers to address remaining employees about the departure of the terminated worker. It usually is not appropriate to provide many details to your staff about why another employee was let go or fired, but coworkers may need to know some information to do their jobs properly.

This is particularly relevant when the past employee’s negative behavior resulted in a problem with clients, and current employees need to navigate now-choppy client relationships. Preparing information that is not overly specific for coworkers is important to keep rumors from spreading and undermining efficiency or professionalism in the workplace.

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