Termination & General HR Matters

Human resource matters pose some of the most high-risk challenges to operating a business. Recruiting, training, managing and exiting employees are all fraught with the potential for things to go wrong. Of all these matters, termination is the most likely to result in a legal claim. 

Terminating an employee is often a difficult decision for an employer to make, but there are situations where it may be necessary. In addition to being stressful for the terminated employee and the person delivering the news, these occasions also create significant risk for the business. 

Preventing Claims

Prior to making a decision to terminate an employee, it is vital that you confirm that the termination is lawful and does not breach any relevant employment laws or regulations. You should consider seeking legal advice before informing the employee of your decision, as it is far preferable to identify an impediment to termination prior to notifying the employee that their employment is at risk. 

Once you have established that the termination is lawful, you should clearly document the reason for the termination. This reason must be based on legitimate business reasons, such as poor performance, misconduct, redundancy, or a genuine operational need.

The reason for the termination should be communicated to the employee, and preferably documented in writing. It is important that the person delivering the notice of termination is clear on the reason for the termination and that there is no inconsistency between what the employee is told, and the reason recorded in the documentation. You should keep detailed records of all meetings, conversations, and communications.

Everyone involved in the termination should take care to follow best practice policies and correct procedures for termination. This will usually involve providing notice or pay in lieu of notice and may involve conducting exit interviews. Every terminated employee should be treated fairly and respectfully throughout the process, regardless of the reason for the termination. 

It is also important that you consider the impact on the employee of ending their employment. The outcome of this consideration may mean that you decide to provide additional support, such as providing references or career transition services. Although there is no legal requirement that you do so, this step may help to reduce the risk of an unfair dismissal claim being made.

Terminating an employee is a serious matter and should be approached with care and sensitivity. You must ensure that the termination is lawful, justified, and consistent with your company’s policies and values. You should also communicate the decision clearly and respectfully and provide support and assistance where appropriate.

Our Gold Coast employment lawyers assist employers with a range of HR questions and workplace issues. We provide front-end legal advice on how to employ or engage staff and how to best manage their employment. We also provide strong representation for our clients to respond to claims made by current or former employees including unfair dismissals, general protections/adverse action, and breach of employment contract claims.

For expert employment law advice contact [email protected] or call 1300 421 599.