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Employee Separation

30 November, 2015 - 12:01

Employee separation can occur in any of these scenarios. First, the employee resigns and decides to leave the organization. Second, the employee is terminated for one or more of the performance issues listed previously. Lastly, absconding is when the employee decides to leave the organization without resigning and following the normal process. For example, if an employee simply stops showing up to work without notifying anyone of his or her departure, this would be considered absconding. Let’s discuss each of these in detail. Employee separation costs can be expensive, as we learned in Retention and Motivation.In the second quarter in 2011, for example, Halliburton reported $8 million in employee separation costs.  1

Resignation means the employee chooses to leave the organization. First, if an employee resigns, normally he or she will provide the manager with a formal resignation e-mail. Then the HR professional usually schedules an exit interview, which can consist of an informal confidential discussion as to why the employee is leaving the organization. If HR thinks the issue or reasons for leaving can be fixed, he or she may discuss with the manager if the resignation will be accepted. Assuming the resignation is accepted, the employee will work with the manager to determine a plan for his or her workload. Some managers may prefer the employee leave right away and will redistribute the workload. For some jobs, it may make sense for the employee to finish the current project and then depart. This will vary from job to job, but two weeks’ notice is normally the standard time for resignations.

If it is determined an employee should be terminated, different steps would be taken than in a resignation. First, documentation is necessary, which should have occurred in the progressive discipline process. Performance appraisals, performance improvement plans, and any other performance warnings the employee received should be readily available before meeting with the employee. It should be noted that the reliability and validity of performance appraisals should be checked before dismissing an employee based upon them. Questionable performance appraisals come from the real-world conditions common to rating situations, particularly because of limitations in the abilities of the raters.  2 Reliability and validity of performance appraisals are discussed in detail in Employee Assessment.

Remember that if the discipline process is followed as outlined prior, a termination for nonperformance should never be a surprise to an employee. Normally, the manager and HR manager would meet with the employee to deliver the news. It should be delivered with compassion but be direct and to the point. Depending on previous contracts, the employee may be entitled to a severance package. A severance package can include pay, benefits, or other compensation for which an employee is entitled when they leave the organization. The purpose of a severance plan is to assist the employee while he or she seeks other employment. The HR professional normally develops this type of package in conjunction with the manager. Some considerations in developing a severance package (preferably before anyone is terminated) might include the following:

  1. How the severance will be paid (i.e., lump sum or in x equal increments)
  2. Which situations will pay a severance and which will not. For example, if an employee is terminated for violation of a sexual harassment policy, is a severance still paid?
  3. A formula for how severance will be paid, based on work group, years with the organization, etc.
  4. Legal documents, such as legal releases and noncompete agreements
  5. How accrued vacation and/or sick leave will be paid, if at all

The last topic that we should discuss in this section is the case of an absconded employee. If an employee stops showing up to work, a good effort to contact this person should be the first priority. If after three days this person has not been reachable and has not contacted the company, it would be prudent to stop pay and seek legal help to recover any company items he or she has, such as laptops or parking passes.

Sometimes rather than dealing with individual performance issues and/or terminations, we find ourselves having to perform layoffs of several to hundreds of employees. Let’s address your role in this process next.