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Handling Employee Separation (Resignation, Termination, Retirement) Process Template

With this process template, teach your HR or people ops teams how your company handles different types of employee separations.

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Handling Employee Separation (Resignation, Termination, Retirement) Process Template

With this process template, teach your HR or people ops teams how your company handles different types of employee separations.


Why We have a Separation Process

Every organization experiences employee separations, whether it's due to personal choices, performance-based decisions, or the natural course of a career's end. It's imperative for companies to manage these separations with care, consistency, and professionalism. This process has been designed with this intention in mind, ensuring that both the employee's exit and the company's ongoing operations occur seamlessly and respectfully.

This process is applicable in various situations, such as:

  • Resignation: When an employee voluntarily decides to leave the organization.
  • Termination: In instances where the company makes the decision for separation based on factors like performance, conduct, or organizational restructuring.
  • Retirement: Marking the culmination of an employee’s long-standing service.

Effective execution of this process requires close collaboration among various departments. As an HR personnel, you’ll play the pivotal role of coordinator and facilitator. You’ll work in tandem with managers and supervisors to understand the reasons behind separations, manage the handover of responsibilities, and ensure a smooth exit. 

Collaboration with the Finance and Accounting team will ensure that all financial settlements, including final paychecks and any outstanding dues, are managed appropriately. While the IT department will play a crucial role in deactivating system accesses, returning equipment, and safeguarding company data.

By interlocking all these elements, we aim to make each employee's departure a process marked by dignity, understanding, and clarity for all parties involved.

Handling an Employee Resignation Process

Resignation Notification and Acceptance

When an employee chooses to resign, it is crucial for the separation process to be carried out in a structured and transparent manner. Ensuring clear communication helps in reducing uncertainties and maintaining a professional atmosphere.

  1. Employee’s responsibility to inform: It is the employee's duty to formally communicate their intention to resign. This communication ideally should be direct and timely, usually to their direct supervisor or department head. Ideally, the employee will provide us with at least two weeks notice, giving us ample notice to manage the transition.
  2. Written notice requirements: At our company, we request that employees fill out formal communication when resigning, usually in the form of a written resignation letter. This document should specify the employee's reasons for resigning (though they may choose to be general or specific), the proposed last working day, and any other relevant details. The written notice serves as an official record and initiates the separation procedure within HR. 
  3. Immediate supervisor's acknowledgment: Once the resignation letter is submitted, the immediate supervisor or manager is expected to acknowledge receipt in writing. Post acknowledgment, the supervisor should promptly inform HR, enabling them to kick-start the exit processes. The supervisor’s acknowledgment ensures that the management is aware of the departure and can plan for a smooth transition.

The Exit Interview

An exit interview serves as a valuable tool for the organization to gain insight into the work experience of departing employees. We generally hold exit interviews on the employee’s last day to ensure the feedback is fresh, relevant, and pertains to the entire duration of their stay.

Confidentiality: It is of utmost importance that the departing employee understands that the exit interview is confidential. This confidentiality encourages open and honest communication. The data and feedback collected are used for analytical purposes and to improve the work environment, without any personal attribution.

Feedback opportunity: The exit interview isn't just a formality; it's a golden opportunity for us to understand the strengths and potential areas of improvement within the company. By asking pointed questions, we can unearth patterns, identify areas that require attention, and celebrate aspects of the company that employees cherish.

Our typical exit interview questions:

  1. How would you describe your overall experience working with our company?
  2. What did you like most about our work environment? What areas do you believe need improvement?
  3. Can you provide feedback on your relationship with your supervisor and the management team?
  4. Did you feel you had the opportunities and resources needed for your professional growth?
  5. What are the primary reasons for your decision to resign?
  6. How would you describe your relationship with your team members? Were there any challenges?
  7. What aspects of our company culture did you appreciate the most? Were there any aspects you felt were not aligned with your values or expectations?
  8. Was your job role clearly defined? Did it match your expectations when you joined?
  9. Would you recommend our organization to a friend or colleague? Why or why not?
  10. Is there any other feedback or suggestions you'd like to share to help us improve?

Conducting exit interviews with sensitivity and genuine interest can pave the way for potential re-hires in the future and reinforce the company’s commitment to continuous improvement.

Employee Replacement and Knowledge Transfer

Navigating an employee’s exit requires meticulous planning, particularly concerning the transfer of knowledge and responsibilities. At our company, we strive to make this transition smooth, ensuring that ongoing projects and tasks face minimal disruption.

Internal Promotions vs. External Hires:
One of the initial decisions to be made is whether to promote an existing employee or hire a new one externally. Both approaches have their merits.

  • Internal Promotions: Promoting from within not only boosts morale but also leverages the company's existing talent pool. These individuals are already familiar with our company culture, systems, and processes, facilitating a quicker transition. Should this route be chosen, you will assist in making the necessary adjustments to job roles, descriptions, and compensation packages. You will also ensure all relevant paperwork reflects the change in designation and responsibilities.
  • External Hires: At times, the skills or experience needed might necessitate looking outside the company. When this occurs, you will collaborate closely with other HR personnel to initiate the hiring process promptly. You'll draft job listings, set up interviews, and conduct onboarding to integrate the new hire seamlessly.

Timelines and transition:
It's understood that timelines won’t always align perfectly. There might be a period where the departing employee's role remains vacant. In such scenarios, coordinate with the department head and managers to ensure no responsibility is left unattended. Temporary reassignments might be essential. This period of transition, though challenging, can sometimes foster innovation and new perspectives as team members step into interim roles.

Documenting knowledge:
An essential aspect of this phase is capturing the departing employee's expertise and understanding of their role. This will involve documenting processes, conducting training sessions, or facilitating meetings between the departing employee and their successor (or team members absorbing the tasks).

This will fall under the purview of the departing employee’s direct supervisor, but you should check-in to see the status of this knowledge transfer.

Our company's commitment to maintaining continuity and efficiency during transitions underscores our dedication to both our employees and our mission. We endeavor to make every departure an opportunity for growth and evolution.

Final Paperwork and Settlement of Pay

The conclusion of an employee’s tenure requires attention to administrative details to ensure all formalities are completed professionally and promptly. Here's our step-by-step process:

  1. Resignation Letter Filing: The original resignation letter or a scanned copy should be filed in the employee's personnel file. This document serves as the official start point for all exit formalities.
  2. Exit Interview Documentation: Any feedback and responses from the exit interview should be documented and stored securely. While specific comments are kept confidential, general insights might be shared for the betterment of the company.
  3. Final Pay Settlement with Accounting: We collaborate with the Accounting department to calculate the final pay. This includes regular salary, unpaid leave (if any), bonuses, and any other due benefits. Deductions for advances or pending expenses, if any, are also considered. Once calculated, we ensure the timely disbursement of this final paycheck, with a detailed breakdown provided to the departing employee.

Handling an Employee Termination Process

Grounds for Termination

In our commitment to fostering a productive, harmonious, and successful work environment, we invest significant time and resources into hiring the right talent. However, despite our best efforts, situations might arise where an employee's journey with the company needs to conclude prematurely. It's essential to approach such instances with clarity, fairness, and professionalism. The following are the grounds on which termination may occur:

  1. Performance Issues: This encompasses consistent underperformance, inability to meet job requirements, or failure to improve after receiving feedback and training opportunities.
  2. Misconduct: Actions that violate the company's code of conduct, including dishonesty, theft, or inappropriate behavior, can lead to termination.
  3. Absence Without Notice: Prolonged absence from work without prior notification or valid justification may be grounds for termination.
  4. Violation of Company Policies: This includes not adhering to policies related to confidentiality, data security, or other crucial regulations integral to the company’s operations.
  5. Redundancy: External factors, such as economic downturns, organizational restructuring, or shifts in business strategy, can lead to roles becoming redundant.
  6. Legal or Contractual Violations: Breach of the employment contract or any legal transgressions that compromise the company's reputation or operations.

While terminations are challenging for all parties involved, they are sometimes necessary for the betterment of the company and the impacted team members. Understanding the grounds for such decisions helps ensure they are made judiciously and fairly.

Preparing Final Settlement and Paperwork

As HR professionals, meticulous preparation is essential before delivering a termination notification to ensure clarity, fairness, and adherence to legal and company procedures. Below is a comprehensive checklist to guide the preparation process:

Termination Letter: Prepare a formal termination letter detailing the reason(s) for the termination, the effective date, and any other pertinent information. Ensure this letter adheres to local employment laws and our company policies.

Final Paycheck Details:

  • Calculate the final payment, including outstanding salary, accrued vacation or paid time off, bonuses, and any other owed amounts.
  • Deduct any outstanding amounts the employee may owe to the company, such as loan advances or equipment costs, after ensuring compliance with local laws.

Severance Package (if applicable): Determine if the employee qualifies for a severance package and document its components, such as severance pay, extended benefits, and other related items.

Benefits Documentation:

  • Provide information on the continuation of health and other insurances.
  • Outline the status of retirement accounts, stock options, or any other financial benefits.

By preparing these items in advance, we can ensure that the termination process is thorough, compliant, and respects the dignity of the departing employee.

Notification Process

The termination process, while a difficult and delicate task, must be approached with respect, clarity, and fairness. Ensuring that the process is structured and transparent is crucial to maintain dignity and professionalism. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to carry out the notification of termination:

Attendees: The termination meeting should have a minimal number of attendees to maintain confidentiality and sensitivity. Typically, the employee's immediate supervisor, a representative from HR, and occasionally a higher-level manager or department head are present.

Delivering the News: The responsibility of conveying the termination typically falls to the immediate supervisor or the department head, with HR present for support and to clarify any procedural or policy questions.

Outlining the Reasons: Clearly and concisely present the reasons for the termination, referencing specific incidents, evaluations, or feedback that led to the decision. Avoiding ambiguity and being factual is vital.

Opportunity for Response: The employee should be given a chance to respond, ask questions, and clarify any doubts they may have. This moment allows them to voice concerns, offer their perspective, or seek clarity.

Exit Interview Components: Since the termination meeting serves as an exit interview of sorts, some pertinent questions to consider include:

  • Did you feel you were given adequate feedback and opportunities to improve?
  • Were there any resources or support you felt you lacked during your tenure here?
  • Is there any feedback you'd like to share about your experience with the company?

Paperwork and Logistics: HR should provide the departing employee with necessary paperwork related to the termination, detailing their final paycheck, benefits, severance (if applicable), and any other relevant documents.

Closing Remarks: Conclude the meeting with a note of gratitude for their contributions, even if the end is not on ideal terms. This maintains a level of respect and professionalism.

Terminations, while challenging, should be conducted with empathy and fairness. The above process ensures that the employee departs with clarity and, as far as possible, with a sense of closure.

Handling an Employee Retirement Process

Notification and Acknowledgement

Retirement, a significant milestone in an employee's career, necessitates a clear communication process to ensure a seamless transition for both the employee and the company. Here's how we handle the retirement notification and acknowledgment:

Employee's Notification:

  • Written notice: Employees wishing to retire should submit a formal written notice indicating their intent to retire, specifying their desired retirement date. Ideally, this notice should be provided several months in advance, allowing ample time for transition planning.
  • Details: The notice should include pertinent details such as the reason for retirement, the last working day, and any special requests or considerations leading up to the retirement date.

HR's Acknowledgment:

  • Formal response: Upon receiving the retirement notification, you’ll promptly send a formal acknowledgment letter, confirming receipt of the notice and expressing gratitude for the employee's contributions over the years.
  • Preliminary information: The acknowledgment should also provide a brief overview of the forthcoming retirement process, including timelines for exit interviews, final pay settlements, and benefits transition.

By structuring the retirement notification and acknowledgment process in this manner, we uphold the company's values, celebrating the employee's journey and ensuring their departure is recognized with dignity and gratitude.

Preparation for Transition

Retirements, while anticipated, bring about a significant change in the workforce dynamics. Ensuring continuity and efficiency during this period is paramount. Here's our approach to facilitate a smooth transition:

Knowledge Transfer:

  • Documentation: Encourage retiring employees to document processes, best practices, and insights they've acquired over the years. This knowledge repository will be invaluable for their successors.
  • Mentorship Sessions: Set up sessions where retiring employees can train or mentor their potential replacements, allowing for hands-on experience and direct Q&A opportunities.

Internal vs. External Hiring:

  • Internal Promotion: Consider the pool of existing employees. If someone has the skills and the potential to fill the role, it can be beneficial both in terms of morale and organizational memory retention. HR should work closely with department heads to identify such candidates.
  • External Recruitment: If an internal fit isn't found, HR should initiate the recruitment process early, allowing overlap between the retiring employee and their successor for adequate training and handover.

Shifting Responsibilities:

  • Interim Measures: There might be a gap between the retirement date and when the new replacement starts. Collaborate with managers to temporarily delegate responsibilities of the retiring employee among team members.
  • Succession Planning: Consistent with a broader succession strategy, HR should work on ensuring that critical roles have a potential succession plan in place, minimizing disruptions.

Celebrate and Acknowledge: Given the tenure and experience, retiring employees deserve special recognition. Planning a farewell or a formal acknowledgment can ensure they leave feeling valued and appreciated.

In navigating retirement transitions, the dual aim should always be to honor the contributions of the departing and pave a seamless path for the incoming, ensuring the company's resilience and growth.

The Exit Interview

The exit interview, a valuable touchpoint in an employee's journey with the company, remains as essential for a retiring employee as for one who resigns. While the context differs, the core objectives of gaining insights, understanding experiences, and refining the company's practices remain consistent.

It's imperative to emphasize that all shared information remains confidential, ensuring that retirees feel comfortable being candid.

When conducting the exit interview for retiring employees, you can use the same exit interview questions we use for resigning employees. However, given their tenure, retiring employees often possess deep institutional knowledge. Their feedback is invaluable in understanding the company's evolution and in preserving organizational memory.

So, be sure to include the following questions in their exit interview:

  1. Can you share memorable milestones or achievements during your tenure here?
  2. What changes have you observed in the company over the years, and how have they impacted your experience?
  3. Do you have suggestions for how we can better support long-term employees or improve the work culture?
  4. How can we enhance our retirement transition process for future retirees?
  5. Would you be interested in any future engagements, even in a non-regular capacity, such as mentoring or consulting?

Maintaining the sanctity of confidentiality and using the exit interview as a platform for honest, constructive dialogue ensures that retiring employees depart feeling acknowledged and heard, leaving a lasting positive imprint on the company.

Final Settlement and Retiree Benefits

Ensuring a clear and comprehensive final settlement for retirees is crucial. This not only facilitates a smooth transition for the retiring employee but also demonstrates the company's commitment to honoring its long-serving members. Here's a guide on how to proceed:

Final Paycheck:

  • Outstanding Salary: Ensure that any outstanding salary up to the retirement date is calculated and included.
  • Accrued Benefits: This could include unused vacation or paid time off, bonuses, and any other monetary benefits owed to the employee.
  • Deductions: As with other forms of separation, ensure that any outstanding amounts the retiree might owe to the company are deducted, keeping in line with local laws and company policies.

Retiree Benefits:

  • Pension Details: Provide a clear breakdown of the pension amount, frequency, and the mode of payment. If there are choices to be made, such as lump-sum vs. annuities, guide the retiree through the decision-making process.
  • Access to Retirement Accounts: Provide guidance on how retirees can access their retirement accounts. Ensure they understand any tax implications, withdrawal limits, or penalties.
  • Retiree Health Benefits: Our company offers post-retirement medical benefits, so be sure to provide comprehensive information on coverage, premium payments, and any associated paperwork.

Important Contacts:

  • Offer a list of contacts within HR, finance, and third-party administrators, ensuring that retirees know whom to reach out to for any future queries or clarifications regarding their benefits.


  • Provide a complete set of documents detailing all final settlement components, benefits, and any additional resources they might need post-retirement.
  • Include a FAQ section, addressing common concerns or questions retirees may have regarding their benefits.

General Procedures for All Separations

Deactivation of Access

Whenever an employee separates from our company, regardless of the reason, it's imperative to maintain security by revoking their access to both our digital platforms and physical premises. Here's our step-by-step procedure:

IT Systems and Email Accounts:

  • Notification to IT: Immediately inform the IT department about the employee's departure date.
  • Deactivation: On the specified date, IT will deactivate the employee's login credentials, ensuring they no longer have access to company databases, internal systems, and email accounts.
  • Data Backup: Essential emails and files from the departing employee's account are backed up and stored securely. Department heads or direct supervisors may request specific data to be retained.

Software Access:

  • License Review: IT will conduct a review of all software licenses associated with the employee.
  • Revoke Access: Access to proprietary or subscription-based software platforms will be revoked.
  • License Reassignment: If appropriate, licenses are then reassigned to other employees to maximize utility and minimize costs.

Physical Access:

  • Keycards and badges: On their last day, employees are required to return all company-issued keycards, badges, and physical keys.
  • Deactivate credentials: We ensure the departing employee's credentials are deactivated from security systems, preventing future access to the office.

By methodically executing these procedures, the company ensures its digital assets and physical premises remain secure while also upholding best practices in transitions.

Return of Company Property

Upon departure, employees are obligated to return all company-issued items to ensure the company's assets are accounted for and secured. Below is a comprehensive list of common company property that must be returned:

Electronic Devices:

  • Laptops/Computers: Including any associated chargers and external storage devices.
  • Mobile Phones: Along with chargers, headphones, and protective cases.

Computer Accessories:

  • Keyboards and Mice: Wired or wireless variants.
  • Headsets: Especially if used for customer service or conferencing.
  • Webcams and Microphones: For virtual meetings.

Office Supplies and Equipment:

  • Calculators, Printers, and Scanners.

Uniforms and Safety Gear: Especially relevant for specific roles.

Books and Training Materials: Issued for professional development.

Vehicle and Transportation: Company cars, bikes, or any other transportation medium, including associated keys or access cards.

Miscellaneous Items:

  • Credit Cards: Company-issued for business expenses.
  • Keys: To offices, desks, lockers, or storage units.

It's imperative that departing employees understand their responsibility in ensuring the timely and safe return of all company property to maintain operational integrity.

Update HR Records

Maintaining clear and accurate HR records is paramount. It’s important for:

  • Legal Compliance: Keeping accurate records ensures the company adheres to local, state, and federal regulations concerning employment documentation.
  • Operational Clarity: It aids in keeping track of employee histories, which is vital for performance evaluations, reference checks, and potential rehires.
  • Financial Audits: Accurate records support financial audits, especially in areas like final settlements, benefits disbursement, and tax-related matters.

Here's a comprehensive guide on how we update HR records following an employee's separation:

Storage, Access, and Destruction Policies:

  • Storage: Store employee records in our digital system, ensuring they are safe from unauthorized access or data breaches.
  • Access: Limit access to only authorized HR personnel and relevant supervisors. Ensure any access is logged for traceability.
  • Destruction: Establish a policy detailing when and how records can be destroyed. This typically occurs after a legally mandated retention period. Ensure that destruction, especially of digital files, is thorough, leaving no retrievable remnants.

Updating Employee Status in HR Systems:

  • Status Update: In the HR management system, change the employee's status to "resigned," "terminated," "retired," or the relevant descriptor.
  • Benefits and Access: Ensure that the employee's access to benefits, like health insurance or retirement plans, is updated accordingly. Collaborate with the finance or benefits team to ensure timely execution.
  • Access: Limit access to only authorized HR personnel and relevant supervisors. Ensure any access is logged for traceability.

Archiving Employee Files:

  • Digital Archiving: For employees with digital files, move their data to the archived section, ensuring it remains accessible yet distinct from active employee files.
  • Destruction: We keep all employee records for a minimum of seven years post-separation to comply with state and federal statutes of limitations. Ensure that destruction, especially of digital files, is thorough, leaving no retrievable remnants.

Meticulous updating and management of HR records post-separation are not just about organization; they're about ensuring the company's compliance, security, and operational efficiency. With a proactive approach, we can ensure a structured, secure, and compliant records management process.


A respectful and comprehensive separation process is not just a reflection of our company's professionalism but also of our core values and dedication to every individual who has been a part of our journey. Recognizing the importance of each transition, whether it's a resignation, termination, or retirement, ensures the dignity, rights, and contributions of our departing members are honored. Furthermore, it safeguards our company's reputation, secures our assets, and maintains organizational harmony. 

As we move forward, we remain unwavering in our commitment to refining this process. With every experience, we learn and adapt, ensuring that our procedures are always in line with best practices and the evolving needs of our workforce. It's a continuous endeavor, and one we undertake with the utmost seriousness and dedication.

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