Disciplinary Action and Termination Documents

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Managing Performance

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There are times when employee behaviour or sustained poor performance make it necessary for an employer to implement a program of disciplinary action in order to reinforce that the behaviour or performance is unacceptable. A single behaviour/incident or a failure to respond to corrective action and discipline may result in a decision to terminate employment.
Discipline and termination decisions should not be made lightly, as they can have a profound effect on the subject employee and their peers/co-workers. Disciplinary action and termination can also have legal ramifications if they are not justified and properly documented and executed.

While the tools on this website will provide you guidance and a framework for the steps leading up to employee termination, it is strongly recommended that legal/professional advice and counsel be sought to confirm that the decision to terminate is appropriate given the specific facts and circumstances of the case. This website is not a substitute for that professional advice. 

Provincial standards vary across the country with regard to notice and severance provisions; therefore, you should also confirm that you are meeting the legislative requirements of your jurisdiction. There are links to various provincial government websites on the Resources and Links page of this website.

There are two primary situations that lead to disciplinary action: employee behaviour (personal conduct, breach of policy, etc.) and sustained poor performance. The Addressing Poor Performance section of this website provides tools to assist you with managing poorly performing employees. 
The concept of progressive discipline is a common and accepted approach to disciplinary action, whether behaviour- or performance-related. Progressive discipline features increasing levels of disciplinary action for repeated or cumulative improper behaviour or continued poor performance.

Discipline meetings are very sensitive and should be handled with the greatest of discretion. The Guide to Addressing Poor Performance available on this website discusses how to prepare and conduct a meeting regarding performance issues. The same principles and approach can be applied to disciplinary meetings and, therefore, it is recommended that you review the guide before initiating a discipline discussion with an employee.
A common progressive-discipline program features these sequential steps:

Suspension typically serves as both a penalty and a final warning to an employee that continued behaviour of this type or failure to immediately improve performance after coaching and improvement attempts will result in the termination of their employment. The suspension should be communicated in a personal meeting and in writing. It is suggested that the suspension/warning letter require the employee to sign (attesting to their understanding of the seriousness of the issue). Further, a coaching and communication record form (or detailed notes) be completed and signed by both manager and employee. The signed form and a copy of the suspension/warning letter, signed by the employee, should be placed in the employee's file. 

It is preferable, where possible, to have one- or three-day suspensions not include a Friday or Monday, so that there is no unintentional benefit of providing a long weekend. Similarly, five-day suspensions are preferably served on either side of a single weekend, as opposed to providing nine consecutive days off as a result of a Monday-to-Friday suspension.

The suspension step of the progressive-discipline program may be repeated if a one- or three-day suspension is given. Should there be another occurrence of the same or similar issue, it may be decided to impose a five-day suspension as a final disciplinary step prior to termination.

In the box at right, you will find sample letters for performance warnings and suspensions, as well as a coaching and communication record template.


The decision to terminate employment is very serious and should be approached with great diligence, ensuring that the decision is sound, justified and properly supported through documentation. It is recommended that legal/professional advice and counsel be sought to confirm that the decision to terminate is appropriate given the facts and circumstances and to determine whether the termination can be 'for cause' or whether notice and severance must be provided to the employee. Provincial standards for notice and severance vary; you should confirm that you are in compliance with minimum standards.

There are links to various provincial government websites on the Resources and Links page of this website.