One of the most misunderstood things for new HR professionals is involuntary termination. So what does involuntary termination mean? In our article, we’re going to teach you the meaning of involuntary termination. We’re also going to cover several helpful tips for processing involuntary terminations effectively as well as reducing their use at your company or business.
What Does Involuntary Termination Mean?
Involuntary termination is a fairly broad term that is used by HR professionals and business owners regularly. However, many don’t actually know what it means. In short, involuntary termination occurs whenever the employer decides to release an employee from employment.
When your employee resigns on their own in any way is not considered involuntary termination. This can include them walking out of the job, leaving a handwritten notice before leaving for the day, and many other reasons. The key way to remember the difference is that involuntary termination occurs when the employer initiates the terminating action.
How Does Involuntary Termination Occur?
Now that you have a basic understanding of what involuntary termination means, we’re ready to begin discussing the ways that it can occur. One of the main causes of involuntary termination is poor job performance. Examples of poor job performance that often results in termination include excessive absenteeism, tardiness, and loss of productivity.
The next common way that involuntary termination occurs is the result of a layoff. This usually is the result of poor economic performance and outright company closure. The exact rules that you must follow with this type of action will vary slightly based on the state that the business is located in. Just because an employee is laid off, does not mean that they are eligible for rehire.
Now that you know how involuntary termination occurs, you’re ready to learn how to initiate the process effectively.
How to Handle Involuntary Terminations Effectively
Documentation Is Key
If you are debating letting an employee go for poor job performance, documentation is going to prove to be key. You should work to establish a record of the person’s relevant negative behavior patterns. In the case of absenteeism, this can easily be validated by keeping records of the dates that they didn’t show up for their shifts. Tardiness can be dealt with in much the same way.
For things like poor productivity, it can be a bit trickier. The easiest way to document this type of occurrence is to maintain a record of prior meetings with the employee. In each of these meetings, you should have discussed their poor performance metrics with them and outlined the steps necessary to resolve it.
It’s common to have the employee sign a document that details the expected improvements that you need to see for them to keep their position during these meetings. As long as you have saved those documents, you can prove that the employee did not follow through on the agreement to improve their job performance as discussed.
Remember, the document should outline clear expectations of the level of improvement necessary to keep their position. In addition, it should have a set date where another meeting will be held to see if they have met said expectations. By keeping this document, you prove that the employee knew the necessary steps to keep their employment.
Proceed with Layoffs Carefully
As mentioned earlier, layoffs are another type of involuntary termination action. However, layoffs require a lot more planning and careful consideration on the part of the employer. The reason for this is that employees who are laid off are often entitled to a wide range of benefits.
One of the most expensive for the employer is unemployment. Since this type of involuntary termination occurred through no fault of the employee, the employer is often held responsible by the unemployment agency in your area for covering a portion of the employee’s lost earnings.
Layoffs can be further complicated by collective bargaining agreements in your area as well as more stringent state and local employment laws. These laws may require specialized severance packages to be paid out to your employees. Examples of this can include vacation payouts, early retirement options, as well as packages that guarantee the employee receives full pay for anywhere between two and six months.
Regardless, it’s important that you proceed carefully with a layoff. Remember to always account for the employment laws in your area to help limit the financial impact a layoff can have for you and your company.
Exhaust all other Options First
Before proceeding with an involuntary termination action, do your best to ensure that you have exhausted all other actions available to you and the company first. The reason for this is that there are substantial costs associated with hiring and training a brand new employee.
In many cases, remedial training for your existing employee can often be the far less expensive option of the two. Remedial training can include computer-based training modules, CBT for short, roleplaying, as well as one-on-one coaching with a supervisor in the employee’s area.
Just remember to establish clear expectations with the employee and to establish set milestones to help measure their improvement. As we discussed in the documentation section, also get a signed copy of the improvement plan from the employee to show that you have been working with them and that they agreed to your specific improvement steps.
For things like layoffs, it really depends on the cause. In the event of company closure, there isn’t much you can really do. For simple downsizing, there are ways you can help mitigate the number of involuntary terminations you have to complete.
One of the easiest things to do is to look for equivalent positions in other departments. If the employee is qualified, offer them a transfer. This will keep you from having to hire a new employee. It will also show your existing employee that you cared enough about them to try to keep them on with your company.
Now that you understand what involuntary termination means, you can work to ensure that your company and yourself are processing these types of situations fairly and effectively. Just remember to keep our tips in mind and you should have no issues making the right choices for you and your company.