There have been a number of situations where a Department manager or HR leader have felt a person’s time in a role or assignment in SIL has run its course and they need to go. The principles are the same for any type of departure, if the reason for leaving is based on a lack of performance or disruptive behaviors that are not yet a breach of behaviour standard.. This advisory notice does not replace the Staff Behaviour Standard or Response to Staff Misconduct. It is intended to give advice that should be used before you get to a misconduct intervention.
This advice is adopted from a blog by Theresa Sidebotham, the SIL HR lawyer.
Ending an assignment or terminating an employee is one aspect of HR and management that may not be avoidable. It is important to have a comprehensive and easy-to-follow checklist in place to assist in making this process go as smoothly as possible. A checklist may also limit SIL’s legal risk.
Checklist to Follow:
A clear and intentional process is key
Above all, the process leading up to a staff person’s termination should be systematic and intentional. Ending an assignment/employment can be emotional. It’s important to make sure termination is the very last step in a fair and thoughtful process. When a staff person is finally let go, it should not come as a surprise to the person. Below are four steps SIL needs to take leading up to the termination talk.
Step 1: Document everything
It is essential that SIL leaders document all information that may be related to a staff person’s termination. Yes, documenting is time-consuming; however, it is important to have a record of all the relevant facts in place before a termination occurs. This record serves as evidence that SIL has adequate processed events as cause for dismissal. Remember, ”Was process followed?” is a reason to appeal a decision.
Step 2: Communicate expectations
Clear communication about job expectations is imperative. If there is a written job description, make sure the staff person has it and knows exactly what is expected of him/her in that role. If there is not an uptodate relevant job description, write one, and make sure your staff person reads it and understands it. Don’t leave room for any assumptions when it comes to job responsibility.
Also, be sure to have a process for performance review and for any needed discipline in place and clearly communicate that to your staff person. Make sure the staff person understands the disciplinary process you are using if that becomes necessary.
SIL has a principle that if a record is made regarding a seconded staff person the sending organisation has access or is sent the note and the staff person is informed this has happened.
Step 3: Provide feedback
If a staff person is failing to meet job expectations, the line manager (with HR where support is needed) should provide that feedback to the staff person. This should be done formally, with some form of documentation. Either way, it’s best for the line manager to provide this feedback as soon as it becomes an issue. This gives notice to the staff person that the current level of job production, or behaviour exhibited is not satisfactory and offers the opportunity to take corrective action and save the job. If this is noted as part of the annual review, and the staff person is seconded from a sending partner, the sending partner also needs to be notified.
Step 4: Put an improvement plan in place
Following feedback from the staff person, should the staff person continue to fail to meet job expectations, the next step is to meet with the staff person and put an improvement plan in place. A line manager may choose to skip this step, but it is often not advisable. A sending organisation, where the staff person is seconded, must also be notified. Exceptions to using this step may occur if the staff person has committed some serious violation, such as misuse of funds or significant sexual harassment, that calls for immediate termination once the offense is established because of a workplace inquiry. Usually, the best way to protect SIL is to be deliberate and careful about providing opportunities for an employee to meet his or her job expectations. This improvement plan should be in writing and detailed. It should identify the problem and set out specific goals. This plan should also clearly set out the consequences for failure to improve, namely termination.
Sometimes termination is unavoidable. However, following the above outlined best practices before making a decision to terminate may go a long way in protecting ministry organizations from unnecessary legal risk. To determine whether your employment practices related to termination are in line with local laws it is also a good idea to consult with legal counsel. In addition, legal counsel can help you evaluate whether each of the steps you take or plan to take is sensible and measured. Proactive attention to this process will make decisions around employee termination manageable, fair, and straightforward.
Actions Requested of HR and SIL Leaders
Area HR leaders please ensure Unit level HR leaders are aware of this advisory notice, and they in turn have informed their Unit level leaders.