How do you start a conversation about exiting an employee from your business?


How do you start a conversation about exiting an employee from your business?

Sometimes the employment relationship breaks down and the most appropriate way forward is to go your separate ways.

But how do you manage this parting of the ways with the minimum risk to your company and the maximum dignity for the employee?

Settlement agreements (formerly compromise agreements) are often used in these situations to bring an employment relationship to an end in a mutually agreeable way.

Settlement agreements are often used where an employer and employee feel that their employment relationship is no longer working and a ‘clean break’ is the best way forward.  Alternatively if there are on-going performance or capability issues and one side does not feel these are likely to be able to be resolved using the normal procedures.

In these situations both parties can agree the basis for bringing the employment to an end.

Without prejudice discussions leading to a settlement can still take place , but only if a dispute exists between the parties and the discussions is a genuine attempt to resolve the dispute.  A without prejudice discussion in these circumstances cannot be used in any subsequent legal proceedings.

The new legislation on pre negotiation discussions is aimed at encouraging these types of discussions, but needs to be used with caution as there are many circumstances which will override the ability for these discussions to remain undisclosed.

Whatever your reason, there are some simple rules to follow which can make this difficult conversation easier to tackle and more likely to be a fair and reasonable .conversation.

You need to consider:

What is your rationale for having this conversation?  What has happened to date and why do you feel that a parting of the ways is an appropriate way forward?

  • Is there an existing dispute?  If so it makes it easier to use the without prejudice rule.
  • If there is no dispute is a pre-negotiation discussion the way forward?  Consider the risks of this approach in terms of the reasons why you may not be able to rely upon this protection
  • Put yourself in the shoes of the employee – How are they likely to react?  What is your response to each of these potential reactions? Are you confident in having this conversation or do you need support to ensure the conversation stays on track?
  • How will you open the conversation? – This last question is the most difficult one and there are a whole host of different approaches, but the ways we have found most useful are, after laying out the issue and the actions that have been taken to date:
    • Ask the employee what outcome they would like to achieve, and/or
    • Ask whether the employee would like the company to consider any alternatives to the traditional route of a disciplinary process.
  • Be prepared for a ‘NO’.  Be prepared to accept this as an outcome, you need to be cautious around putting any undue pressure on the employee to accept your proposal.

However you approach the conversation it is important to keep the conversation light and be prepared to walk away without the result that you would ideally like to achieve on this occasion.

If you would like more information on how to tackle these complex issues, or would like some support to handle a difficult issue, contact Athena Professional on 01926 633086