Employee Management

What to do when an employee gives notice

Employee turnover is inevitable, and there are several ways to respond when an employee gives two weeks notice. When weighing your options, make sure you comply with the law and are consistent with company policy.

Published: March 11, 2019

1. Understand "Employment At-Will"

The "employment at-will" doctrine, which has been adopted by nearly all states in the U.S., allows employers to discharge an employee for any lawful reason, or no reason at all, at any time and without advance notice. Employees have equal freedom to terminate the employment relationship.

However, employment at-will may be restricted by a statute (such as a nondiscrimination law) or an express agreement to the contrary. It's important to have a proper employment at-will disclaimer in your company handbook—handbooks that do not have such a disclaimer may inadvertently lead employees to reasonably expect continued employment.

2. Check your employee handbook

In addition, check to see if company policy requires employees to give two weeks notice before leaving. If it does, and you send your employee packing before the two weeks are up, you may be on the hook for paying him or her for the two weeks of work denied.

Some employers simply opt to pay the employee for the two-week period he or she intended to work. This course of action may help to forestall the thorny problems that can arise with immediate dismissal, and could eliminate concerns you may have about the employee hanging around during the resignation period.



3. Consider allowing 2 weeks' work to boost morale, smooth transition

In some cases, you may want to let your departing employee serve out his or her final two weeks. Remember, terminating employees when they give notice sends a message to other employees, who may choose to leave without warning when they find a new job. If the employee is in good standing and can be expected to work diligently until departing, allowing the final two weeks signals your commitment to the remaining employees and helps make for a smoother transition.

4. Communicate the employee's resignation

If your company is organized by clearly defined departments, you should first address the staff in the departing employee's department. If your organization is small, you may wish to address the entire staff at once. Although more personal communication is usually preferable, in a large organization, it may be necessary and appropriate to send an email informing staff of an employee's departure.

5. Develop a transition plan

A transition plan should include a decision about whether to hire a replacement from within the company, recruit externally, or divide the departing employee's responsibilities among existing staff (and which employees will be called upon in this instance).

Management should also establish estimated timeframes for how long other staff will need to share the departing employee's responsibilities. A projection of additional costs of the shared responsibilities (i.e., overtime, covered meals, and more) should be considered. The transition plan should be shared with affected employees.

6. Alert clients

If your departing employee has established a professional relationship with one or more of your company's clients, it is prudent to alert the clients of the employee's departure. When dealing with a trusted employee who is leaving on positive terms, you may want to allow the employee to have this conversation directly with the client. Doing so may help the client understand that nothing troublesome occurred between the employee and the company that could negatively impact the client. In addition, it is important to reach out to clients and introduce the person who will be replacing the departing employee to ensure a smooth transition.

7. Conduct an exit interview

Employees that leave your company often know a lot about your business and your workplace. A final sit-down with a departing employee may prove valuable to your company going forward and may provide an outlet for letting the individual "let off steam."

Typically, the exit interview is conducted by a manager, supervisor, or HR personnel. If possible, employers should conduct the exit interview in person, most likely in the workplace. The meeting should take place in a private space where the departing employee can feel comfortable that the conversation will remain confidential.

Topics to cover during exit interviews include:

  • The reasons for the employee's departure;
  • The departing employee's satisfaction or dissatisfaction with corporate compensation, benefits, and working conditions;
  • Problems an employee may have had balancing personal and work life;
  • Problems an employee may have had with co-workers or managers;
  • Whether the employee feels he or she was treated fairly;
  • Changes employees would choose to make to their jobs;
  • Whether employees feel the supervision and training they received were satisfactory; and
  • Whether employees feel they had adequate opportunities for career development and advancement.

As always with employment matters, remember to treat all employees equally and avoid any actions that could be construed as discriminatory. For specific questions regarding how to respond to employee resignations, please consult a knowledgeable employment law attorney.

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