Effective Disciplinary Action Policies and Procedures
Having to discipline, or worse, end an employment relationship is always difficult. Many employers think that just because they are in an “at will” state
that they can fire anybody at any time. This is not the case.
It is absolutely critical you, the HR Professional, and your team understand how to approach these oftentimes tough situations. There are right and wrong ways to handle them. As an HR Professional, you will be involved in and even lead disciplinary procedures. The learning objective is to help Human Resources Pros like yourself partner with managers to handle two of the toughest workplace activities, disciplinary actions and terminations.
You are in the perfect position to ensure employees are treated with respect and your management team operates in both a compassionate and compliant manner. The more you know, the less stress and anxiety you’ll have to overcome. Plus, you’ll be better enabled to train your managers.
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Title: Preparation - Offboarding Checklist
Module: The Termination Conversation - The Right Way
As I stated previously, by the time the conversation turns to a termination, there should have been more than one documented conversation, hopefully two
or more. In addition, the employee should have had enough time to correct their behavior or performance.
If both of these have happened, the final conversation should be pretty smooth. But, regardless of how well prepared an employee is, this will be a difficult message for them to receive and this will have a negative impact on them. We need to have the conversation in a respectful manner. Think about how you would want to be treated in this case and carry out the conversation accordingly.
Here are a series of steps to prepare for the meeting:
1. Schedule the right people to be present before you call the employee into the room. We don’t want the employee waiting in the room while the other attendees are still strolling in. That's just awkward. Typically, the manager and HR are present. I always recommend a 3rd person be in the room when terminating an employee both as a witness and for safety purposes.
2. Choose a private office where your conversation will not be overheard by other employees.
3. Make sure the employee cannot be seen by others in the private office you’ve chosen to have the conversation. It is hard enough to receive this message without having glass doors or windows where others can see in.
4. Have tissues available in the likely event that there are tears.
5. After the conversation, allow them some time to pull themselves together before they need to gather their belongings and depart the building.
6. Depending on the industry and circumstance, I often alert IT to the impending departure, so they can shut down passwords and access to the company’s systems while we are conducting the termination. In many cases, and depending on the issues, this is a good best practice to have in place.
7. Decide ahead of time how you will handle the employee at the end of the termination. Will you accompany them to their desk to gather their things? Will you offer to pack up items and mail them? Will you escort them from the building into their car? In today’s crazy times – these are areas that you must decide ahead of time.
A policy is preferred so everyone is treated in a consistent way whenever possible. In addition, we have to have a policy and processes in place to minimize personal risk to HR and managers.
8. Have all of the termination paperwork in order including the termination write-up, benefits steps like accessing COBRA and final paycheck (depending on the state regulations). If you are offering any outplacement services, have that information ready as well.
9. I recommend that you create an off-boarding checklist and follow the same steps for everyone. For example, ensure the following actions are taken:
All documented conversations and write-ups are signed and in the file
Turn off access to email and systems
Collect badges, keys and fobs
Collect any equipment such as a laptop and cell phone
Arrange for final pay
Have box ready to gather belongings
Gain passwords or anything needed to help team in locating projects etc.
HR must prepare COBRA or get carrier or third party to prepare paperwork
Confirm home mailing address
Arrange for an exit interview if you typically conduct these with departing employees
It’s important to note, in the cases of involuntary termination, there is not usually a severance agreement. A severance agreement is typically put together in the event of a layoff, organizational restructuring or early retirement.
If you are pulling together a severance package, it is a good idea for an attorney to review to make sure it includes all of the provisions necessary. Severance agreements are also put together to protect the company from the exiting employee filing a wrongful termination suit. By having this type of legally binding contract in place, the employee cannot take the company to court.
Depending on the circumstances, companies may offer a terminated employee outplacement services to help alleviate the departing employee’s stress and provide them with coaching in the following areas, resume writing, interviewing and job search support.
This type of support can be offered in numerous ways. It can be unlimited, up to 3 months, 6 months or even longer. As a consultant I have conducted outplacement with a specific number of sessions offered and paid for by the company. Good outplacement coaching helps the employee gain some confidence and focus on their job search in a more positive manner. It can also help to reduce the chance of future litigation.
Outplacement also focuses on developing someone’s career. It’s a good time for the employee to look inward and see if they might want to make career changes. Many coaches offer career and personality assessments to aid in the process.
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Liz has been an HR professional for more years than she cares to share! In that time she has seen it all, she has hired them all, let some of them go, stayed on top of the ever changing cultural and regulatory landscape. She has had every difficult conversation a Hollywood writer’s room could cook...