How to Write Letters to Dismiss Employees

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One of the most difficult aspects of the work of a human resources manager is having to deliver the news that employees are being laid off or fired. HR professionals are expected to have people skills as part of the job, but there is no easy way to tell someone he is being terminated. However, in many cases today, especially larger layoffs, it is common to inform the employee that he is being terminated in writing, so those responsible for informing employees need to have good writing skills.

  • Double-check every detail about the termination proceeding before actually writing the letter. Make sure that all workplace policies have been followed, and confirm the identity including the spelling of the name and the Social Security number.

  • Inform the affected party that he is being terminated in the first sentence or two of the letter, and mention the exact date the termination takes effect. For example,"I regret to inform you that your position has been terminated because of a reduction-in-force related to business conditions effective June 1, 2011."

  • Direct the terminated employee as to the next steps he should take, i.e., when and how to clean out his desk and claim personal belongings, return keys, fill out paperwork with HR and so forth. This information should be exact and step by step to make sure the tasks are understood and easily accomplished.

  • Mention how the employee's final paychecks will be handled and when he should expect to receive them. Any deductions aside from the usual should be written in advance, either in the termination letter or in the supporting documents the employee is to sign.

  • Mention any employee benefits the terminated employee may still have access to in the letter, including any severance pay, COBRA extended health insurance or payment for vacation time accrued. Potential disposition of any retirement plan should also be mentioned. These details can be briefly presented in the termination letter and be discussed in more detail when the employee signs all the termination-related documents when processing with HR.

Tips & Warnings

  • Termination letters should be relatively short and to the point, no more than one full page. Maintain a neutral, business-like tone throughout the letter, and try to use exact legal terminology rather than euphemisms as much as possible.

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