Letting an employee go is never easy, but sometimes it’s necessary. Having a robust offboarding process can go a long way to helping improve the experience for all parties involved. It can also help you mitigate legal risk.
This guide equips you with the best practices for creating a streamlined offboarding process that supports both the employee and your business.
Offboarding employees remotely can be a long and complex process, so let us break it down into eight essential steps*.
Please note that if the employee is employed through an Employer of Record (EOR) like Omnipresent, you must inform the EOR as soon as you decide you want to terminate them and before taking any further legal steps. The same applies if the employee wants to resign.
*Some or all of these steps may not apply or may apply differently according to local country regulations and practices. You should consult a legal professional if you’re unsure.
1. Make Sure Dismissal Is the Right Decision
Termination should rarely come as a surprise; it should be a last resort. So be sure that it’s the right decision and that there’s nothing more you can do as an employer to rectify the situation or provide further support.
If you do decide to dismiss an employee, the reason for termination must also be lawful. In many countries, you can let go of an employee for the following reasons:
- Repeated poor performance: This involves an employee’s capability to do their job. It could be related to their skills, aptitude, or motivation. Depending on local regulations, you may need to put the employee on a formal performance improvement plan before you’re able to dismiss them. Even if it’s not required by law, giving an employee the opportunity to improve and setting them up for success before resorting to dismissal is only fair.
- Repeated poor conduct: This happens when an employee goes against company policies and guidelines (e.g., sick leave abuse, bullying, or misuse of company property). You may be required to give a series of warnings before dismissing someone for poor conduct. Creating a clear and accessible code of conduct and providing regular training sessions can help to minimize conduct-related issues.
- Gross misconduct: This is a much more serious issue involving acts such as fraud, violence, or sexual harassment. Usually, you can dismiss an employee without previous warning in a case of gross misconduct as long as you’ve conducted a proper investigation first.
- Redundancy: This happens when you need to reduce your workforce or when a role is no longer needed. In many countries, there are strict rules about how and when you can make an employee redundant, as well as how you can hire talent moving forward.
Some countries, like the US, allow employers to dismiss an employee for any reason without warning - a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all - as long as it’s not illegal. This is often called “at will” employment because the employer can let go of an employee “at will.” The few illegal reasons usually relate to a protected “class” of people. Some of the common protected classes are race, color, religion, age (older workers), and gender.
Even in jurisdictions where employees are considered “at will” it’s still best practice to provide a tangible reason for dismissing an employee to ensure fairness, avoid a culture of fear, and stay attractive as an employer, as well as defend against allegations that the termination was based on the employee’s protected status. The best way to defend against this type of allegation is to document the non-discriminatory reasons for the termination, along with any prior warnings, in the employee’s personnel file.
If you have a global team, it can be hard to understand all the country-specific regulations without legal expertise. And without help, you put your company at risk of serious repercussions, such as legal action, fines, and reputational damage.
Working with a global employment partner like Omnipresent can help you navigate termination regulations across the world, helping you stay compliant throughout the offboarding process.
2. Have an Honest, Private Conversation with the Employee
Once you’ve established the reason or reasons for terminating an employee, you should schedule a meeting to notify them.
Termination meetings should be private and individual-focused, unlike the mass Zoom firings that occasionally make an appearance in the news. So restrict meeting access to only those who need to be there, such as the employee, their manager, and an HR professional.
Before the meeting, be sure to prepare answers to common questions, like:
- Why are you dismissing me?
- When will I receive my last payment?
- Will you write a recommendation letter for me?
- Am I eligible for unemployment insurance?
- Can I continue my health insurance?
During the meeting, you should clearly communicate what is happening and why. It’s good practice to keep termination meetings short and to the point without going into too much detail. However, you should allow your employee to respond and ask questions if they want.
Finish by thanking the employee for their work and outlining the next steps, including notice periods, handover processes, equipment returns, and final payments.
3. Follow up with Essential Information & Documentation
Always follow up your meeting with an email outlining all the details and next steps for your employee. This ensures that you have a record of termination should you need it in the future. It also helps provide vital information for the employee that they may not have retained during your meeting.
Within the email, be sure to include:
- Confirmation of termination, as well as any legal documents you both need to sign (you may have dedicated offboarding software within your HRIS to help streamline this process)
- Notice period and final workday
- Answers to common offboarding questions, such as final payroll dates
- Instructions on how the employee can return equipment to you
- Explanation of non-disclosure agreements, non-compete clauses, and other contractual obligations
- A plan for the employee’s notice period, such as tasks and handovers to be completed before their last day of work
- A letter of recommendation (if appropriate)
- An invitation to an exit interview
- A point of contact for any questions or concerns they may have
4. Inform & Support Remaining Team Members
Once the termination is confirmed, it’s important to inform affected team members, such as those who work closely with the terminated employee or those negatively affected by their actions, in the case of misconduct.
While you may not be able to reveal the reasons behind their termination for legal purposes, do make sure the team understands that their jobs are safe. You should also let them know the next steps, such as transferring responsibilities to another team member or hiring a replacement employee.
If an employee leaves on good terms, you could set up a virtual goodbye card for colleagues to sign or organize virtual leaving drinks. How you say goodbye will ultimately depend on the circumstances for them leaving and the employee’s preferences, but it should always be done with respect and sensitivity.
In the case of gross misconduct, you should prioritize support for any victims in the workplace. This may involve offering psychological help, for example.
5. Conduct an Exit Interview
Exit interviews can be really effective for gathering feedback before an employee leaves your company. They’re typically used in the context of voluntary termination, but they can be useful for involuntary terminations too. It’s worth asking the employee if they’d like to attend one before their last day.
During the interview, tailor your questions to the employee’s circumstances. Here are some questions you might ask:
- Why did you choose to leave the business? (voluntary termination)
- What could we have done differently to have prevented you from leaving? (voluntary termination)
- What did you enjoy most about working at the company?
- What did you enjoy least?
- How would you describe the company culture?
- Did you feel supported by your manager?
- How did you feel about your workload?
- Would you consider reapplying for another role at the company in the future? (if appropriate)
Use the information you’ve gathered in your exit interviews to identify trends and take action on recurring issues. While it can be difficult to listen to a lot of negative feedback, exit interviews allow your business to improve and grow.
6. Process a Final Payroll
When an employee leaves your company, you’ll need to process their final payroll and benefits by providing a pay stub and relevant paperwork. How and when you do this depends on local laws and regulations, as well as how the employment ended.
A timely final payroll is important for compliance, and it’s also respectful to your former employee, who may be reliant on the money while looking for another job.
Work alongside your payroll team or external experts to ensure final payments are handled compliantly and efficiently.
7. Revoke Access to Digital Accounts & Company Property
Your employees have access to sensitive and confidential company information. The best way to keep it safe when an employee leaves the business is to back up files and then revoke access to all company accounts. If you fail to do this, you might risk a data breach, which can severely impact your company and clients.
Work with your IT team to keep track of the company accounts employees have access to. For example, email, Slack, customer relationship management software (CRM), official social media channels, productivity tools, and more.
Remember, you also need to retrieve physical company property too, whether that be a laptop, phone, hard drives, printers, or anything else that belongs to the business. If you have Mobile Device Management (MDM) software, your IT managers may be able to block company devices and wipe their data remotely before the employee sends them back.
Once the employee has left your company, you should also remove them from company directories, org charts, and website pages.
8. Monitor for Negative Reactions
Most offboardings happen without issue, but occasionally a former employee may react negatively following a termination. Disgruntled employees can harm your employer branding, business reputation, and team morale, so it’s sensible to monitor social media and public channels for comments and posts about your company.
While the best way to react is often not to respond at all, you should always escalate negative public feedback to senior members of staff and legal advisers who can decide the best course of action. If you work with an EOR, you also should inform them before proceeding.
However you decide to take action, your priority should be supporting your remaining colleagues as best as you can.
Omnipresent Provides a Compliant Offboarding Process Worldwide
Global-first businesses are the future, but managing an international team can be complex and time-consuming. Labor laws are different in every country, and complying with all of them can be really challenging.
Fortunately, Omnipresent makes hiring talent in over 160 countries and regions simple. Our tech-enabled, expert-led global employment solutions take care of compliance and administration throughout the entire employee life cycle, including onboarding and offboarding.
With payroll and benefits covered, you can focus on your company’s growth. And when an employee reaches the end of their tenure - for whatever reason - we’re there to support you both to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Book a free consultation to find out more or to get started.
The information on this page is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Please see our disclaimer for more information.