Termination Letter - A Comprehensive & Effective Guide


Mar 13, 2024

This termination letter can be used by an employer to terminate an employee’s employment, either with notice or by making a payment in lieu of notice. It is suitable for use in a number of situations, including where the reason for termination is poor performance, misconduct and redundancy.

Top Features of a Termination Letter

☑ A termination letter provides clear and formal notice of the end of employment, ensuring there is no ambiguity about the employment status.

☑ It serves as a written record of the termination decision, outlining the reasons for termination and the process followed.

☑ Using a termination letter demonstrates professionalism and respect for the employee.

☑ The letter can serve as an essential piece of documentation for both the employer and the employee for future reference - especially for matters related to unemployment benefits, tribunals, or job searches.

☑ It provides details about any final compensation, benefits, or pay the employee is entitled to - helping to avoid confusion or disputes later on.

Table of Contents

  1. What is a Termination Letter?

  2. Why is a Termination Letter Important?

  3. Understanding a Termination Letter's Purpose

  4. Critical Components of an Effective Termination Letter Template

  5. Tailoring Termination Letters for Different Audiences

  6. For Human Resources Professionals

  7. For Small Business Owners & Startup Founders

  8. For Managers and Supervisors

  9. For Legal Professionals

  10. For Non-Profit Organizations and Volunteer Coordinators

  11. What Are The Common Pitfalls of a Termination Letter?

  12. How Should the Reason for Termination be Informed in the Letter? 

  13. Can a Termination Letter be Emailed, or Must it be Delivered in Person? 

  14. What Role Do Termination Letters Play in Managing Team Morale Post-termination?

  15. How Can Non-profit Organisations Handle the Terminations of Volunteers Differently From Paid Staff?

  16. Termination Letter Template Overall

  17. Ready to Get Started With Your Termination Letter Template?

What is a Termination Letter?

Employment contracts usually state that the employer can terminate employment by giving notice to the employee in writing.

This letter can satisfy this requirement. It is suitable for use in several situations, including where the reason for termination is poor performance, misconduct, or redundancy. 

Allows Choosing to Pay in Lieu of Notice 

It allows the employer to choose to pay in lieu of notice (“PILON”) or to put the employee on garden leave.

Sets Out The Payments & Benefits

It sets out the payments and benefits that the employee will receive on termination and reminds the employee about the ongoing obligations in their employment contract—for example, those relating to confidentiality, return of company property, and post-termination restrictions (also known as “restrictive covenants” or “non-competes”). 

Termination of Consultants

For termination of a self-employed consultant’s engagement, where the consultant is an individual or where they are engaged through a limited company, see Termination letter - Consultant

Why is a Termination Letter Important?

If the contract requires written notice of termination, a letter should be sent to the employee to terminate the employment. Even if there is no requirement for written notice, it is good practice to confirm the termination in writing to avoid any disputes or miscommunication about whether the notice was given correctly. 

Explain the Reasons

The termination letter is also essential to explain the reasons for termination and the employee’s entitlements on termination and also to remind the employee of any ongoing contractual obligations that apply to them (for example, relating to confidentiality or post-termination restrictions).

Employer Contractual Rights

Suppose the employer has the contractual right to pay the employee in lieu of notice (also called “PILON”) and wishes to take this option. In that case, this should also be documented in writing, and the best place to do this is in the termination letter. 

The same applies if the employee is being put on garden leave.

Understanding a Termination Letter's Purpose

Termination letters are a necessary part of the employment relationship, providing a clear and formal conclusion to an individual's employment. 

As a result, this document serves multiple purposes. For instance:

1) It officially communicates the end of employment

2) Outlines any final settlements

3) Addresses the return of company property

4) Addresses any pay and end date

5) Stresses the employees' obligations

Therefore, crafting an effective termination letter requires a delicate balance of legal precision combined with empathetic communication. Various stakeholders need to understand all the nuances involved.

Clarifies Reasons

A well-crafted termination letter clarifies the reasons behind an employee's dismissal, helps manage the legal risks associated with terminations, and sets the tone for a professional parting of ways. 

Consequently, whether due to performance issues, redundancy, or other reasons, the letter must be direct yet respectful, ensuring all parties are simultaneously aware of their rights and responsibilities to be well-rounded.

Critical Components of an Effective Termination Letter Template

A Termination Letter Template can be broken down into several areas. With these being around:

Date of Termination

When drafting a termination letter, it is essential to specify the exact date the employee's termination becomes effective.

This clarity helps both parties understand the timeline and allows for a smoother transition to occur as a result.

For instance:

"Your employment with [Company Name] will officially end on [Date], concluding your [X years/months of service]." 

This data is not only crucial for your record-keeping but also impacts any final pay calculations, benefit cutoffs, and potentially the start date for unemployment benefits for them to start.

Consequently, clearly communicating this date can easily reduce confusion and help your employees plan their next steps.

Reason for Termination

You should include a section which details the reason for the termination; however, this should be approached with both care and accuracy.

For instance, it should clearly explain the grounds for the dismissal, ensuring the explanation is direct but respectful.

For example:

"The decision for termination is based on [specific reason], despite previous discussions and attempts at remediation."

This approach then ensures that your employee understands the basis of the decision - which is crucial for transparency and maintaining professionalism.

It also helps protect the company in the event of a dispute occurring, as it provides a documented rationale for the reason they were given a termination letter.

Final Pay and Benefits

In the termination letter, you should outline the specifics of the employee's final pay, including any accrued but unused holiday or sick pay, and explain how benefits will be handled. 

For instance, for this section, you could include something along the lines of:

"You will receive your final pay on [your last working day or another date], which will include compensation for all accrued, unused annual leave time." 

Additionally, you can explain how benefits such as any private health insurance or stock options will be managed until their termination date, and if applicable, provide information about extending any benefits they have.

This section then provides them with a clear understanding of any financial entitlements and benefits continuing and when.

Return of Company Property

An essential part of the termination process involves the return of company property.

Consequently, you should include a section in your termination letter template that should specify:

  1. What items need to be returned

  2. The condition they are expected to be in

  3. The deadline for their return

For example, this could consist of:

"Please ensure all company property, including keys, badge, laptop, and any other equipment or documents, are returned by [Date], and handed to [Persons name]."

Providing a detailed list helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures the company recovers its assets in a timely manner.

It also serves as a reminder to the employee of their obligations upon leaving the company at the same time.

Tailoring Termination Letters for Different Audiences

Different roles within an organisation often require different approaches to drafting termination letters. 

Obviously, the above should all be factored into your template; however, for different roles within an organisation, this template letter can have additional touches added to help achieve the sensitive nature of this letter as best as possible.

These can consist of, for instance:

For Human Resources Professionals

HR professionals are always at the forefront of managing terminations, which requires a deep understanding of legal requirements and best practices. 

Consequently, it may be more suitable for you to focus more on compliance and empathy simultaneously in your letter.

For instance, ensure your termination letters adhere to all legal requirements while still conveying a tone of respect and understanding. 

Explain the decision clearly and concisely, and provide information about any packages, benefits, and support services offered to the departing employee.

For Small Business Owners & Startup Founders

Small business owners often wear multiple hats, including handling HR duties. They may know the employee more personally as a result. 

Consequently, as a small business owner, personalising your termination letters while keeping them professional and lawful—as above—may be more suitable for your leaving employee.

For instance, you could acknowledge the employee's contributions to your business for example. 

For Managers and Supervisors

Managers and supervisors directly involved in the termination process must handle these situations with empathy and professionalism - especially for Corporate Executives. 

As a result, Managers should strive to maintain a balance between firmness and compassion. 

For instance, you could be straightforward about the reasons for termination and ensure the letter reflects the discussions held during termination meetings. 

Another area to consider is avoiding legal jargon and instead focusing on clear, respectful communication - significantly as it could impact your direct team's role.

For Legal Professionals

Specialising in employment law requires staying updated on best practices for termination letters. 

Consequently, you should advise clients on crafting legally sound termination letters and mitigate potential disputes. 

This type of letter may, for instance, emphasise the importance of documenting performance issues - or policy violations - and what led to the termination. 

Consider including a statement confirming that all legal obligations to the employee will need to be fulfilled, as a result.

For Non-Profit Organizations and Volunteer Coordinators

Terminations in non-profit settings, especially involving volunteers, require a unique approach. 

For instance, non-profits should ensure that their termination letters for staff - or discontinuation letters for volunteers - communicate appreciation for their effort and commitment to the non-profit.

Be clear about the reasons, and if applicable, offer to provide references or other forms of support to help them in their next steps, which would also be good things to include.

What Are The Common Pitfalls of a Termination Letter?

There are many pitfalls to needing a termination letter in place. Some of these, for instance, can consist of the following:

Not Having a Termination Letter Template to Send

If no termination letter is issued, there may be a dispute about whether notice has actually been given and, therefore, when the employment will terminate.

There may also be a dispute about what was agreed upon regarding working arrangements during the notice period.

This is where a termination template comes in - ready to send when you unfortunately need to.

Not including all of the relevant information in the termination letter

If you (the employer) have the contractual right to pay the employee in lieu of notice (also called “PILON”) - and if you wish to take this option - this should also be documented in writing, and the best place to do this is in your termination letter template.

The same applies if the employee is being put on garden leave.

Not Reminding the Employee of Their Post-termination Obligations

It is also always sensible to remind an employee of their post-termination contractual obligations (like keeping the employer’s information confidential and not using or disclosing it at any time in the future), for instance.

How Should the Reason for Termination be Informed in the Letter? 

The reason for termination should be apparent, brief, and sensitive, stating whether it was performance-related, misconduct, downsizing of the organisation, or other changes. These are some examples to use here.

The language used should also be as neutral as possible, avoiding any wording that could be perceived as derogatory or incredibly personal.

This will provide a specific rationale for the decision that both helps the employee understand why the decision was made and also provides them with documentation that may protect the employer in case of any legal dispute later on.

Can a Termination Letter be Emailed, or Must it be Delivered in Person? 

The method of delivery should be seen as a universal company policy that guides the method of delivery of a termination letter. 


While in-person delivery is usually preferred because it allows for a more human and respectful conversation, in some cases, such as immediate termination, it may be delivered through email due to logistical reasons or any remote work arrangements with your employees and contractors.


If choosing to email the termination letter, it's essential to ensure it's sent securely and privately. 

However, you would still be required to follow up on the delivery of the letter to the employee to make sure they received it and understood it.

What Role Do Termination Letters Play in Managing Team Morale Post-termination?

While the main aim is to communicate between an employer and an employee who is leaving, termination letters can also easily affect the wider team morale and post-termination of the affected employee(s).

This is due to the employees who remain witnessing how this has been handled. As a result, to keep team morale as high as possible, this should be handled professionally and respectfully to reassure other team members, who otherwise may not feel secure in their jobs. 

How Can Non-profit Organisations Handle the Terminations of Volunteers Differently From Paid Staff?

Non-profit institutions can operate without paying volunteers and, therefore, have quite different dynamics of termination letters compared with their paid staff.

Equally, when dismissing the volunteer from their duties, it is important to appreciate them for the service and also outline why they are to be dismissed in the most professional, tactful, and positive manner. 

Legal considerations usually are far less complex than those of paid staff, but they still need to be done professionally. 

Termination Letter Template Overall

As you can see, crafting an effective termination letter is an important skill for anyone involved in employee management. The nuances of this can change depending on your role, your organisation, and the relationship you have with your employee being terminated.

By understanding the legal, ethical, and interpersonal considerations involved, you can ensure that any terminations are handled as smoothly and as professionally as possible.

Ready to Get Started With Your Termination Letter Template?

Create all your termination letter templates in minutes. Pocketlaw offers you a platform with AI-powered drafting support, a clever AI-powered contract management system, as well as access to searchable contract repositories, metadata tagging, document review and redlining, eSigning and much more.

Please note: Pocketlaw is not a substitute for an attorney or law firm. So, should you have any legal questions on the content of this page, please get in touch with a qualified legal professional.

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