HR Management & Compliance, Talent

Why HR Should Be Present at Employee Termination Meetings

Who is responsible for delivering the news to an employee when he or she is terminated? Is it that person’s direct supervisor or manager? Is it someone higher in the organization? Is it HR? If it’s not HR, is HR always present?

There’s no single answer. The answers to these questions vary by organization—and may even vary within an organization—but there are some good arguments why an HR representative should be present for any termination meeting. Here are a few:

  • Having HR in the room helps to ensure leaving employees are treated in a consistent manner, which can reduce the chances of a future discrimination claim. The HR representative can lead the conversation, which can help keep it neutral and consistent. It can help to deflect the high emotions that are likely to arise.
  • HR can help to ensure all legal requirements are met. For example, the HR rep can provide all necessary paperwork, such as information on continuation of benefits like the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). The HR rep can also ensure that the local final pay regulations are met and are explained to the employee.
  • Having HR to assist can be helpful for managers, who likely do not relish this aspect of their job. By being a neutral party, the HR rep can keep the meeting on track, regardless of who is leading the conversation.
  • HR can assist with creating the proper documentation for the entire process, which is another aspect of consistency.
  • The HR representative is a good person to have on hand to answer questions the departing employee may have.
  • The HR person can ensure that company procedures are followed and also confirm steps are taken to help ensure the safety of others and to maintain the security of confidential information.
  • HR can notify other employees as soon as they have completed the termination process (or, in limited cases, before, as long as they’re fully involved).
  • HR can explain to the departing employee what the company’s reference policy is so there is no confusion and there are no promises made that cannot be kept.
  • Someone needs to get the employer’s property back. This might include electronics, security cards, other equipment, keys to company vehicles, etc. While this does not have to be done by HR, it would be ideal for someone consistent to be in charge to ensure nothing gets missed.
  • This is an opportunity for HR to see how the others involved in the meeting handle themselves; they can note any need for additional training on the part of the other managers involved. (This is, of course, a conversation to be handled separately.)
  • The HR rep can keep track of any separate issues that are brought up during the meeting that require follow-up, such as accusations of other issues like discrimination or harassment. The HR rep can also track information that could help with future training or issues that could be addressed to reduce future turnover.
  • Having HR there can set the tone, which can improve the efficiency of the process, even if the HR rep is not the primary person communicating during the meeting.
  • The HR rep can be a witness to the meeting, regardless of how much he or she manages the meeting itself.

What is your organization’s policy? Do you have an HR representative at every termination meeting? What has worked well for you?