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Employee separation in a remote or hybrid environment
11 July 2023
Post COVID the way we work is different and some things will never return to the way they were. For leaders and managers in SMEs this comes with some unique challenges. It is now common to have employees we have not met IRL (in real life) and our entire working relationship has been conducted virtually.
So, what happens when either performance or changes in business needs (or ability to pay) means that you need to end an employment relationship?
While in-person meetings are always the best option when delivering important messages, it is not always possible and may create even more stress if it is not the “normal way of working”. If virtual meetings are your normal, it’s reasonable practice to have the meeting remotely. However, that doesn’t mean that if your normal way of working is Chat programmes or WhatsApp Groups that you should communicate your message via a messaging service.
Once you’ve had the conversation, it’s important you confirm the purpose and what was communicated formally in documentation. That may be via email or a letter via email or your normal communication channel.
Doing things remotely doesn’t change your legal obligations. You must ensure procedural fairness is followed and make sure the employees well-being is considered. Things we suggest you consider include:
- Ensuring the employee has been given adequate notice of the meeting and the opportunity to have a support person present during the video call.
- Consider the appropriate time and day, especially when working in different time zones.
- How will you support the employee if they are distressed? Are you able to have someone on standby to connect after the meeting or have EAP (employee assistance program) support virtually?
- Explain when the employee will receive formal documentation.
- Explain the process for returning company property.
- Consider changing it to an in-person meeting if the employee requests this.
Empathy and emotional intelligence are even more important in a virtual setting, so pay extra attention to body language and any other visible cues that demonstrate the person may be distressed.
If you are faced with an issue like this and need support, reach out to us and we can make this process easier for everyone involved.
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