Sample Termination Letters for Employees who were Fired or Laid Off

How to write a termination letter, with 2 free downloads (termination for cause and termination without cause)

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Writing a termination letter is never easy. Learn what information to include and what missteps to avoid.

Nobody likes firings and layoffs. Not the employer, and certainly not the employee. It signifies the end of a working relationship, loss of income, and possibly a career setback. Nevertheless, they often can’t be avoided.

When you do have to terminate employment, it’s important to do it formally, in a letter. Written notification of termination provides a record of the event and protects you in case any legal issues arise from it. The termination letter also provides the employee with important details about the termination that they’ll need in the coming days and weeks.

Because these letters can be a bit awkward to deliver, some employers have a hard time writing them. To help you out, we’re providing a free downloadable termination letter example. Feel free to copy and paste this letter into your own document and edit it as needed.

But before we get to the sample termination letter, let’s go over the information you’ll need to include.

What should be included in an employee termination letter?

  • General information: Be sure that your letter includes the employee’s name and title, the name of your company, the effective date, and the name of the person who is handling the termination.
  • Reason for termination: Note whether the termination is a result of forced layoffs for financial reasons, for poor performance, or for violating company policy.
  • Previous actions: If you are terminating the employee for cause, be sure to note any previous disciplinary steps you took before finally firing them. Hopefully, you followed your company’s written disciplinary procedures. Documenting these steps in writing will help protect you in the event of a future lawsuit.
  • Company property: If the employee has any company property, such as key cards, laptop computers, mobile phones, or anything else, lay out the procedures for returning them, including to whom they should be returned and a deadline.
  • Unused vacation time: In many states, employers are required to pay departing employees for any unused vacation time. Be sure to note the employee’s vacation time balance and how much pay they will receive in compensation. If you are not required to pay for unused vacation time and you don’t plan to do so, note that as well.
  • Final paycheck: Tell the employee when they can expect to receive their final paycheck and how you will deliver it.
  • Health insurance and other benefits: COBRA (the Consolidated Budget Reconciliation Act) is a federal law that requires employers with 20 or more employees to offer continuing health coverage to employees who would otherwise lose their benefits. This includes terminated employees. Therefore, you must explain in your termination letter how the employee can obtain COBRA coverage if they want it. If you’ve provided other benefits, like retirement savings, you must tell your employees how to access those benefits after the termination is effective.
  • Exit interview: Attach an exit interview form, and let them know when the exit interview will take place.
  • Well wishes: Be sure to end the letter on a positive note, and wish the employee well in their future career.

Optional items to include in a letter of termination

  • Severance pay: If you are offering severance pay, state how much this will be and any conditions for accepting it.
  • Non-disclosure or non-compete agreement: If the employee has signed such an agreement, be sure to remind them of that and attach a copy of the agreement with the terms.
  • Reference letter: If you like the employee but you were forced to layoff or fire them for reasons beyond your control, you might want to offer to write a reference letter.

Sample termination letter (Layoff, without cause)

[Date of letter]

Dear [Employee Name],

We regret to inform you that your employment with [Company Name] is being terminated, effective [date termination is effective]. This decision cannot be changed.

We are terminating your employment for financial reasons. This action has nothing to do with your performance.

We kindly request that you return [your company lap, mobile phone, and key card] by the end of the day today. You will receive your final paycheck and reimbursement for your [amount] days of unused vacation time once we have received these items.

Out of appreciation for your service, we would like to offer you a severance check in the amount of $30,000. You will receive your severance check upon signing and returning the enclosed release of claims document.

Your healthcare benefits will continue for the remainder of the calendar month. If you would like to continue to use our health plan through COBRA, please fill out the enclosed COBRA forms and return to HR within 60 days of the date your coverage is set to end.

Also, please keep in mind that you have signed [any agreements the employee has signed, such as non-disclosure or non-compete]. For your reference, we have enclosed a copy.

We have also enclosed an exit interview form. Please fill it out to provide us with feedback about your time and experience with [company name]. We would be happy to meet with you at [time] today to discuss your thoughts.

If you have questions about this letter or your termination, please contact [name and contact information for HR manager or other responsible party].

We wish you well in your future career. If you would like, I would be happy to provide you with a reference letter to help you as you search for a new job.

Sincerely,

[Name of person handling termination]

Sample termination letter (Firing, with cause)

[Date of letter]

Dear [Employee Name],

This letter is to inform you that your employment with [Company Name] is being terminated, effective immediately. This decision cannot be changed.

We are terminating your employment for the following reasons:

As a reminder, you received the following warnings and disciplinary actions prior to this termination, as outlined in our employee disciplinary policy:

We kindly request that you return [your company lap, mobile phone, and key card] by the end of the day today. You will receive your final paycheck and reimbursement for your [amount] days of unused vacation time once we have received these items.

Your healthcare benefits will continue for the remainder of the calendar month. If you would like to continue to use our health plan through COBRA, please fill out the enclosed COBRA forms and return to HR within 60 days of the date your coverage is set to end.

Also, please keep in mind that you have signed [any agreements the employee has signed, such as non-disclosure or non-compete]. For your reference, we have enclosed a copy.

We have also enclosed an exit interview form. Please fill it out to provide us with feedback about your time and experience with [Company Name]. We would be happy to meet with you at [time] today to discuss your thoughts.

If you have questions about this letter or your termination, please contact [name and contact information for HR manager or other responsible party].

We wish you well in your future career.

Sincerely,

[Name of person handling termination]

Terminations can be difficult, but sometimes they are unavoidable. A termination letter provides a written record of the event and protects you in case of a lawsuit or legal complaint. The letter also provides the employee with important information that they’ll need in the near future.

We hope these termination letter samples will help you draft your own termination letters. Feel free to copy and paste them, then personalize to suit your needs.

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