The sensitive subject of terminations

One of the more sensitive issues that City Hall must manage is the termination of staff.

The termination of staff is part of any business.   Sometimes a person is terminated with cause.  This is rare. More often, a person is terminated without cause.

There are several reasons why someone’s position might be terminated without cause:

  • The job is no longer needed
  • The job has changed significantly
  • The employee is not meeting performance expectations

Effective management of the City’s workforce is essential to deliver value for every tax dollar spent.

No business can afford to continue a position that is no longer required.  Every business goes through changes to better meet the needs of their business.  And no business can afford to retain those employees who cannot meet the expectations of their position despite the best training efforts.  The City is no different. 

When these circumstances arise, it is the City’s commitment to treat employees with dignity and respect and to ensure we follow employment law.

Employees terminated with cause do not receive a severance.  Employees terminated without cause, under employment law, are entitled to a severance.

Privacy legislation prohibits the City from providing information related to an employee’s employment history or any information that can be characterized as “financial” and that includes the exact amount of the severance payment made to the individual.  Requests for this type of information are handled by the Privacy Commissioner.

So what kind of transparency can the public expect regarding terminations and severance payments?

Council hires one employee – the Chief Administrative Officer. Last term, Council approved a policy that establishes the severance payment should the CAO be terminated.  This policy was made public.  The terms of severance were included in the CAO’s contract and this contract was also made public.  In this way, members of the public can see for themselves whether the City’s approach to termination is reasonable and consistent with employment law. 

Following in this path, the Executive Team has now brought forward a policy to govern termination and severance payments for all non-union staff (union contracts include the terms of termination).  Again, members of the public can see for themselves whether the approach to termination is both appropriate and consistent with employment law.

Annually, Council receives a Human Resources Report.  In the future, in addition to many other statistics, this report will document the number of terminations each year. This report is also available to the public.

Termination of an employee is not an easy thing.  It is never entered into lightly regardless of the reason for the termination.  Terminations are often no fault of the employee but a change in the organization. 

In the private sector, most businesses part ways with employees with minimal public attention. The same cannot always be said in the public sector.

About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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2 Comments on “The sensitive subject of terminations”

  1. C Robinson Says:

    If an employee is not meeting performance expectations should said person not be terminated “with” cause?

  2. kfarbridge Says:

    Case law in Ontario has shown clearly that there are limited circumstances where a termination with cause can be sustained regarding performance issues. These include, but are not limited to: willful misconduct, theft, fraud etc.

    The case law also has shown that where someone is not meeting performance expectations (that may change over time), this would not be sufficient to warrant a ‘with cause’ termination.

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