How To Fire Right
TORONTO, ON — Keep your employees in the loop, and you won’t have to close any loopholes later.
Nobody likes firing people. Happy employees are the foundation of a successful business. But when the time comes, you gotta do what you gotta do, and you gotta do it properly.
This is, at its most basic, the message that HR experts delivered in their collaborative hiring-and-firing seminar on May 29th in Toronto.
The expanded message is that the best way to ensure a clean break from a terminated worker is to make sure your employees are fully aware of their terms of employment and employee conditions—the fine print.
Why does this matter to you?
Because the trucking industry is one of few that involves full time, part time, and contractual employment. And when it comes to firing an employee, the definition of “just cause” (a legitimate, legal reason for firing) in this industry can become murky if the terms are not clearly laid out at the time of hiring.
“In trucking, for example, they might have an employment agreement where one of the conditions of employment is that the driver has their licence and accreditations at all times,” said Mark Fryer, a lawyer at Toronto firm Loopstra Nixon. “If the driver does not at any point during the employment relationship have their licence, (the client) would naturally assume that the driver may be terminated.”
Is it that simple though?
“Not necessarily true,” Fryer continued. “But if you have that employment agreement with the proper definition of cause, you can.”
Human resources specialist Liza Provenzano, from Mississauga-based SparkHR Inc., said that timing is significant in firing an employee, but rash decisions need to be avoided so that wrongful termination does not occur.
“There are several kinds of situations when you know the time has come,” she said. “One is where there is some kind of incident, usually some type of egregious behavior that has to be addressed and you have to act right away. The second kind of situation is where something happens with the job performance and the performance deteriorates, which is the one that employers grapple with the most.”
When that is the case, Provenzano said, you must take the proper steps to first attempt to correct it. As an employer, you need to make sure that you have done everything you can to bring the performance back up to where it needs to be. If you’ve done that, and firing is the only option left, then you need to make it clear to the employee.
When the time does come to terminate the job, Provenzano and Fryer recommend the following to ensure that there is as little subsequent recourse as possible.
1. Make sure you know it’s time, which is when:
- An incident of misconduct occurs
- Performance has deteriorated, with or without cause (and there is a negative impact with continued employment)
- The position no longer exists
2. Prepare the documentation, think through what you will say, and consider the logistics.
- You need to meet legal obligations and demonstrate you are a fair employer
- Effectively deliver a tough message
- Demonstrates a professional, respectful employer
3. Deliver the message clearly and firmly.
- Explain why you are meeting; be honest
- Be clear and genuine
- Close confidently, do not open a debate over whether or not the termination is fair or warranted
4. Inform the rest of the team.
- State the change clearly and succinctly
- State why, but only if appropriate
- Inform them of the plan to replace the fired employee, and invite any one-on-one questions
Most of the time, you will be giving a severance or termination payment to the fired employee. But make sure the employee knows what is expected of them at the time of hiring, leave nothing up in the air, and follow these steps and you will avoid lengthy court battles and paying out extra monetary packages that were entirely avoidable.