Terminating somebody’s employment is never easy. But even the most well-managed companies need to dismiss people from time to time – and no matter what the reason, it’s always tough.
So how do you do it? Well, if you asked Alan Sugar how to sack somebody, he’d probably just point and say “you’re fired!”. But despite how popular this catchphrase is, there is a much more respectful process you should be following.
We’ve split it into 10 manageable chunks for you. The first 4 steps are all about ways to avoid having to fire anybody needlessly in the first place, and the rest are to do with the actual process of letting somebody go, complete with alternative suggestions and best-practice advice.
How to Avoid Firing People Needlessly
1. Use Zero Hour Contracts. Zero hour contracts get a lot of bad press, but if you use them right (instead of using them to blackmail and bully your staff), they’re actually really helpful. Zero hour contracts are best for companies experiencing frequent fluctuations in the levels of work available. If the amount of work you can offer takes a sudden temporary dip, a zero hour contract lets you cut down on people for a while without outright sacking them.
2. Consider Fixed-Term Contracts. Maybe you are pretty confident in the amount of work you can provide, but you’re not sure how long it will last? A fixed-term contract could be the solution – employing a person, or a team of people, for periods of 6-12 months at a time can help you review and assess the situation periodically, and it can help the employee prepare for finding new work in advance.
3.Hire Independent Contractors. Hiring independent contractors and freelancers can help you hit short-term goals without the responsibility of employing somebody long-term. For one-off tasks, or short bursts of work, consider bringing a 3rd party on-board.
4. Only Use Permanent Contracts if You are Very Confident. Unless you can practically guarantee that work will not dry up in the next 12 months, then you should consider any of the above three options before you even think about making a permanent, full-time hire.
OK, so these first four steps don’t help much if you actually need to fire somebody. So the next 6 steps will walk you through how to actually dismiss a person respectfully.
How to Fire Somebody Respectfully
5. Ask For Volunteers. In situations where your company is struggling and you need to cut down on numbers, your first step should be to inform staff that you’re planning on letting some of them go. Then, you should inform your staff that any volunteers who may be willing to step down voluntarily should step forward so that you can discuss financial incentives. Dismissing people who have agreed to leave is a much more agreeable way of cutting down on numbers.
6. Give Time to Improve. Unless you’re dealing with an issue of gross misconduct, you shouldn’t be showing anybody the door before giving them time to improve the situation, or at least without fair warning. Not only is on-the-spot sacking against employment legislation, it is unfair. If somebody is under-performing and it is no longer profitable to keep them employed, give them a date to improve by, and then review the situation again.
7.Search for an Alternative. If the role just isn’t right for somebody, it’s easy to see dismissal as the only way out. But hold your horses! Have you tried finding an alternative to termination? Would the person shine in another job role or department within your company?
8. Ask For Suggestions. Just because you can’t see an alternative to sacking somebody, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Explain your situation to the person in question, and ask if they can think of a better way forward than starting the dismissal and/or disciplinary process – they might surprise you. And if they think of a really good solution, you could even transfer them to the engineering department!
9. Listen to Their Story. No matter how much you think you know about the situation, you should always give the person chance to tell their side of the story, and you should always listen carefully.
10. Act Fairly. Execute actions in-line with relevant employment legislation, and remember that even once you have let an employee go, they have the right to appeal.