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  • Approval Dates:  March 2004, August 2007
  • Approved by:  Vice President, Administration and Finance
  • Jurisdiction:  Vice President, Administration and Finance; Vice Provost, Faculty Affairs; Human Resources

Introduction

The University recognizes that people are one of the University’s most valuable resources.  As such the University is committed to recruiting, retaining and motivating the best qualified persons who can effectively contribute to the University’s goals and objectives. 

An important factor in retaining and motivating employees is creating a study and work environment which assists employees in reaching their maximum potential through the development of clear performance expectations, identifying critical performance objectives, providing ongoing feedback, training and professional development opportunities and coaching for optimal performance.  These leadership actions are supported by adherence to the principles of progressive discipline. 

However, from time to time, even with sound leadership practices, unacceptable performance or behavior can develop and persist. Depending on the severity of the performance issues or behaviors a decision to terminate the employment relationship may have to be made.

Policy

1.    Both the University and the employee have the right to sever an employment relationship.

2.    A staff member’s employment with the University constitutes a contract in law and therefore, termination of employment by the University, where this is necessary, must be in keeping with relevant legislation.

3.    Where termination occurs for reasons other than cause, individuals must be treated fairly and appropriate severance arrangements must be made.

4.    Where termination is for cause, employment may be terminated without notice or severance.

5.    In all cases of termination initiated by the University, approval must be obtained at the vice presidential level (see attached guidelines on termination of employment).

Application

This policy applies to all employees save and except employees covered by a collective agreement in which specific termination provisions have been negotiated between the University and the union/association.

Definitions

Just Cause: Grounds for termination, without notice or severance, for a fundamental breach of the employment contract for which an employer bears the burden of proof. Examples of just cause (list is illustrative not exhaustive): willful disobedience; insolence/insubordination; undermining corporate culture; breach of rules/company policies; frustration of contract; revelation of character; incompetence; attendance (absenteeism/lateness); drug/alcohol use in the workplace; conflicts of interest; workplace misconduct; breach of trust; dishonesty/fraud; theft.

Constructive Dismissal: Significant alteration(s) to the essential element(s) of a position, resulting in the diminishment of the incumbent’s status in the corporate culture, which will lead to a forced resignation. Incidents of alterations to essential elements include, but are not limited to: rate of pay; level of autonomy; change in work location; type/method of work.

Common Law: Body of law based on judicial or arbitral decisions. These decisions are consulted, in addition to legislation, when making decisions related to termination of employment.

Past Practice: Adopted action/process, condoned by management, that has become relied on as well as an expectation of the employee, which is outside the terms and conditions of the collective agreement. These actions/processes will alter the interpretation of the collective agreement, which puts limitations on management rights.

Redundancy: When the majority of the functions of a job are no longer required by the University, in any of the following situations: job is eliminated; job is reclassified and over 50% if the duties have changed.

Notice of Termination: An employee’s notice period of the termination without cause of their employment. Collective agreements, Employment Standards and common law are considered when determining reasonable notice. Notice can be in the form of working notice and/or pay in lieu of notice.

Severance: Sum of money offered in exchange for the cessation of an employment relationship, where an employee is being terminated without cause. Collective agreements, Employment Standards and common law are considered when determining the appropriate severance amount.

Punitive Damages: A court ordered payment from the employer to the employee which is made when the conduct of the employer is of such a nature warranting punishment. An example might be falsely alleging theft in order to terminate without cause.

Responsibilities

Senior Director/Dean: Review the facts/information presented by the line manager, to ensure that the line manager has adhered to the appropriate process. He/she will provide approval to the line manager, based on the facts/information provided, to proceed with Human Resources in preparing a termination recommendation.

Line Manager: Collects information/documentation to provide to the Human Resources consultant. This information/documentation will include a paper trail illustrating the facts, the reason for termination, mitigating circumstances, and past practice. The line manager will provide any additional information requested by the Employee Relations Unit throughout the preparation period of the termination recommendation. He/she will attend the termination meeting as the management representative, and be responsible for communicating the termination to the remaining staff. He/she will inform Security when necessary.  He/she will prepare a letter of reference when requested and agreed to.

Human Resources Consultant: To work in conjunction with the line manager and the Employee Relations advisor, to complete the preparation checklist, which the Employee Relations advisor then uses to develop the termination recommendation. He/she will liaise with the Employee Relations Unit throughout the process, to provide input and additional information. He/she will work with the line manager in making the necessary arrangements  for the termination meeting, and will attend the meeting and take appropriate follow up action as required.

Employee Relations Advisor: In conjunction with the Human Resources consultant and the line manager, will complete the preparation checklist. He/she will examine the preparation checklist to create a termination recommendation. In collaboration with the Human Resources administrator, he/she will complete a severance entitlement form which will outline the proposed severance payout. He/she will draft the legal agreement for separation and attend the termination meeting.

Manager, Employee Relations: Analyzes the termination recommendation, and with the examination of reference material, including correspondence with legal counsel when necessary, will confirm the common law allocation to the severance proposal. Will act as one of the authorization figures on the termination recommendation and the severance entitlement form.

Assistant Director, Centre for Environmental Health, Safety and Security Management: Works with the line manager and Employee Relations advisor, if required,  to develop appropriate safety and security plans in order that the termination is done in a safe and humane manner.

Executive Director, Human Resources: Approves the termination recommendation authorized by the Manager, Employee Relations, confirming the common law allocation of the severance proposal as well as the decision of the termination recommendation. With his/her authorization, the termination recommendation will be submitted to the line vice president, and the Vice President, Administration and Finance, with a copy to the Human Resources consultant and line manager.

Line Vice President and Vice President, Administration and Finance: Reviews the termination recommendation, approved by the Executive Director, Human Resources, and will be responsible for making the final decision/approval with respect to the termination and the severance package.

1.    Resignation from the University - Notice of Resignation

a.    Employee:  A staff member’s resignation should, whenever possible, be given to his/her supervisor, in writing, as early as possible; however, a staff member is expected to give at least two weeks’ notice of resignation.  The notice of resignation must be submitted in writing to the immediate supervisor.

b.    Supervisor:  It is the responsibility of the immediate supervisor to ensure that staff members leaving the University return all items which are the property of the department/University.

Resignations should be confirmed by the employee’s department, in writing, and are binding on the employee and the University and cannot be changed except by mutual agreement.

c.    Human Resources:  All staff members leaving the University’s employment normally will be interviewed by Human Resources.  It is the responsibility of Human Resources to arrange the exit interview.

Human Resources will arrange for and disburse all final monies owing to the staff member and discuss arrangements with respect to social security benefits on the last working day.

2.    Termination by the University

a.    Termination of Probationary Employees:  If, after consultation with Human Resources, it is determined that an employee will be terminated during the probationary period, the employee will be given appropriate notice by the University in accordance with the Employment Standards Act of Ontario.

b.    Non-Renewal or Early Termination of Term Employment:  All term employment contracts shall include a specific provision clearly indicating that the contract expires automatically, without notice and without payment in lieu of notice, on the specified terminal date unless the University gives written notice to the contrary.

Term employment contracts shall include a specific provision clearly indicating that the contract may be terminated by the University prior to the end of the terminal date of the term appointment with appropriate written notice.

c.    Discharge for Willful Misconduct:  Willful misconduct implies an act of such gravity and seriousness that it constitutes a breach of the employee’s fundamental obligations to the employer, and is therefore grounds for immediate dismissal.

If in the opinion of  the senior director/dean, a staff member has purposely committed an act of serious misconduct such as theft, violence, gross negligence of duty, insubordination, abandonment of position, or breach of confidentiality, the senior director/dean must immediately review and discuss the best way to handle the particular incident with Human Resources.

If the review of the situation and other relevant facts so warrant, notice of discharge shall be given to the employee and his/her employment terminated immediately.

Under certain circumstances it may be appropriate to place the employee on leave with pay pending further investigation. If upon investigation the allegation is not confirmed to warrant dismissal, the employee will be reinstated. If the investigation confirms that dismissal is warranted, employment will be terminated immediately, with no notice or pay in lieu of notice.

d.    Termination for Reasons of Performance:  While performance issues are typically related to the employee’s responsibility to carry out job duties proficiently, satisfactory performance also comprises such expectations as regular attendance and adherence to work schedules, and on-the-job behaviour with co-workers that supports and enhances the effectiveness of the work unit, department and/or school.

Performance issues, relating to probationary and post-probationary employees, should be discussed with the appropriate Human Resources consultant at an early stage to ensure the situation is handled in the best way, including required documentation and advice on notice/severance entitlements, if applicable.

All performance discussions should be documented clearly setting out the areas of performance requiring improvement, the supervisor’s expectations and required results, support available to the employee, and a time frame during which performance must improve.

3.    Probationary Employees

For all new employees to the University hired into positions graded at Bands A and B, a probationary period of six (6) months must be established.  Normally, a probationary period of one (1) year would be appropriate for all new employees to the University hired into positions graded at the Band C and D levels.

Periodically, during the probationary period, the supervisor should provide ongoing feedback to the employee to ensure the employee is aware of any performance deficiencies and the steps necessary for improvement.

At a minimum, mid-way through the probationary period, the supervisor should complete an interim probationary review and meet with the employee to review his/her performance.  A final probationary performance review should be undertaken at least one month prior to the expiry of the probationary period and a recommendation made whether to confirm the employee to career status, or whether termination of employment should be provided through a formal notice of termination.

Under certain circumstances, it may be appropriate to extend the probationary period for a specified period of time. In such cases, the supervisor should discuss the reasons for the extension, the expectations which must be met in order for employment to be confirmed and the extended probationary period end date and that employment will be terminated should the performance expectations not be met, and confirm these details in writing.

Under no circumstances should the probationary period expire without either employment career status being confirmed, the probationary period extended or employment terminated.

4.    Post-Probationary Employees

Unsatisfactory performance on the part of an employee who has completed his/her initial probationary period with the University should be managed in a similar fashion to probationary employees.

The supervisor should provide ongoing feedback to the employee to ensure the employee is aware of any performance deficiencies, the steps necessary for improvement, the support available including training, and a reasonable time frame in which to improve, and document such discussions in writing.

In cases where there is insufficient improvement, the supervisor will advise the employee, in  writing, that his/her employment will be terminated unless the required improvement is made by a specified date. No later than the specified date, if performance expectations are still not met, a formal letter of notice of termination will be given to the employee.

The senior director/dean must seek advice and assistance from Human Resources to initiate such termination.

5.    Retirement

Normally, employees are required to retire at the end of the month during which they reach their sixty-fifth birthday.  Refer to the Retirement policy for further details.

6.    Redundancy

For details concerning length of notice, severance allowance, refer to the Redundancy policy.

Jurisdiction

This policy falls under the jurisdiction of the Vice President, Administration and Finance.  The interpretation and application of this policy is a shared responsibility of the Vice Provost, Faculty Affairs (in situations involving academic support staff) and Human Resources.