Wednesday, June 10, 2015

You Can’t Quit Because You’re Fired

What is the time where an employee exhibits the greatest lack of productivity or initiative?  Well, it’s probably true that the single most unproductive day for most employees is the day after the holiday party, but otherwise it is the time period between when an employee gives their notice of resignation and their last day of “work” (if you can even call it that at that point).

Most employers have faced this situation. The resigning employee starts burning accrued benefit time, especially sick or PTO time for which they wouldn’t receive pay at separation.  They have an air of “I don’t care” and they spend more time on the phone and on the internet while at work than actually working. What’s worse is that it infects other employees; they’re either irritated with the employee’s behavior or catch the laissez faire attitude themselves. In any event, some employers come to believe that the employee’s presence is not worth the disruption and inconsistency that they bring, so why not cut the cord early and tell them they can stop coming to work?

Yes, in the short term, it ends the daily wonder of whether the employee is going to show up and what they might say or do if they do report to work. In the long run, it can raise a few problems that may make it worth it to stick it out until the employee’s chosen last day.

First of all,  if you tell an employee to stop coming to work, you have fired them. This is true even if they were going to voluntarily leave in a few weeks, because you have ended their employment at a time when they did not intend to end it. This means that as an employer, you open yourself up to a number of risks that you otherwise would not have. 

When an employee leaves at the employer’s request (aka when they are terminated) the employer creates a situation where they may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Now, if the employee is resigning because they have accepted another job which will start shortly after their resignation date, maybe the employer doesn’t care that they will receive a payout on unused vacation and get a month or so of unemployment. Some employers do care though. And, if the new job falls through or quickly turns out to be wrong for the new employer, as the first employer, you could be the charging employer for a lot longer. 

Moreover, when a employee gives notice, they usually feel that they remain in control of their life. Tell them that their last day is earlier than they expected and many feel that the employer has done wrong to them. It’s no longer an amicable parting and the employer exposes itself to the plethora of employment claims made from disgruntled employees, even though the person intended on leaving anyway. 

One alternative to telling an employee that “you can make today your last day” is to offer, as a benefit, to allow them to use a certain amount of benefit time in lieu of coming to work. It’s something like this: “Mary, you probably have a million things you want to get done while you’re off. If you would like, you can take a week of your PTO time as your last week of work.” The employee remains in control and hopefully the employer avoids further disruption in the workplace. Otherwise,  it is just better for the employer to bide their time and let the employee leave on the day that they chose.