Correctly Terminating An Employee

Termination is often a complicated and awkward issue for any business owner, but is a situation that needs to be handled thoughtfully and compassionately.

There a number of situations where termination can occur. It is important that each situation is carefully managed to ensure that the process is compliant with employment laws. Often, it may be a good idea to seek legal or HR advice before initiating the termination process.

If a business fails to comply with the provisions of a termination they can be liable for legal action, as well as fines and penalties. Employers should consider the various ways to terminate an employee’s role within the business and the legal requirements that will follow before making any decisions.


Redundancy occurs when an employee’s role within a business is no longer required. This can occur due to a reconstruction of the business, or technology taking the role of an employee. A redundancy is based on the operational needs of the business, not the personal performance of the employee. When an employee is made redundant they are often entitled to compensation and other entitlements. It is important the employer follows the correct protocols when making an employee redundant, which are laid out in the award or enterprise agreement.

Abandonment of employment

This form of dismissal occurs when an employee is absent from work for an extended period of time without providing a reasonable excuse. This could occur if an employee does not return to work after a leave of absence, or for walking off the job without providing an explanation. If an employer wishes to terminate an employee under abandonment of employment they must show that they have taken steps to contact the employee before terminating them.

Summary dismissal

A summary dismissal is when an employee is immediately terminated from employment due to a serious breach or misconduct, such as theft or assault. Generally there is no period of notice or financial compensation in lieu of notice. Although this type of dismissal does occur quickly it is still important that the correct formal process is followed, and that any allegations against the employee are thoroughly investigated before the employee is dismissed.

Dismissal for a cause

A dismissal for a cause is less serious than a summary dismissal. It is used when an employee is terminated for under-performance or other issues such as inappropriate behaviour. Leading up to a dismissal for cause there must be a disciplinary process which can include warnings and performance management in an attempt to correct the employee’s actions.

Termination by notice or agreement

This is when an employee’s role in the business is terminated by one party giving notice to another. This can occur when an employee resigns, or if an employer informs a casual employee or contractor that they wish to terminate their agreement. Termination agreements often come with various provisions that must be complied with, for example, the timeframe for notice. There may also be other steps to follow listed in the relevant award.

The information in this blog is intended only to provide a general overview and has not been prepared with a view to any particular situation or set of circumstances. It is not intended to be comprehensive nor does it constitute advice. While we attempt to ensure the information is current and accurate we do not guarantee its currency and accuracy. You should seek professional advice before acting or relying on any of the information in this blog as it may not be appropriate for your individual circumstances.

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