Most employers have a general idea of the steps they should take to protect themselves when they terminate an employee’s employment. A lot of employers obtain much better knowledge of what they should do after messing it up once or twice and having to spend more time and money that they want to (or thought they would have to) in order to resolve the inevitable dispute arising from a botched termination. Remember that an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. It may sound clichéd but in employment terminations it is all too true.
Are you thinking about firing an employee? Here are a few things to consider first:
- Unless the situation is absolutely clear, termination for just cause will not fly and will likely result in a claim against you for wrongful dismissal. Of course, if there is actual cause for termination, you can fire your employee and not have to pay him or her anything. It is very tough to prove this kind of termination so you should get legal advice before taking this step.
- Your obligations to give notice (or pay an equivalent amount instead of notice) under the BC Employment Standards Act are only your minimum obligations. For an employee who has worked with you for a time, even if it is less than a year, the common law provides for higher severance pay-outs. I like to estimate an appropriate severance amount at a rough 1 month per 1 year of service in normal cases but there are many other factors including the employee’s age, experience, qualifications, duties and responsibilities, title, place in the company, and the circumstances of the termination, that can move this estimate up or down. Don’t bank on the fact that you will only have to pay what the Act says you have to pay.
- Wrongful dismissal lawsuits are expensive since you will likely have to hire a lawyer to help you. This is not necessarily the same for the employee who may well decide to risk representing himself or herself in court. Having a self-represented party on one side tends to make things more expensive for the represented party as delays and misunderstandings are common. It is better to pay a little more to the employee on termination; you will save even more in the long run by avoiding lengthy litigation.
Unless you have your own experienced and skilled human resources personnel to deal with employment terminations, you should consult an employment lawyer prior to terminating. You will find that an appropriate termination letter and severance offer will often smooth the outward transition of your ex-employee and avoid the expense, aggravation and stress of a lawsuit.
If you have any questions about this process, we can help.