The process of firing any employee, and particularly one who deals directly with clients, can be an arduous one for all parties. If the employee has been with the company less than two years, it is acceptable to dismiss them (with appropriate notice) for under-performance. After two years, the employee receives additional protection through the law and a disciplinary process must be followed before any termination. Even after following the correct procedures and dismissing the member of staff, the task of informing clients remains.
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While it is generally accepted that the most effective way to communicate with your clients is face-to-face or by speaking to them, sometimes a more formal approach is advisable. When informing a client that one of your employees has had their employment terminated, it is always best to do so in writing. Care should be taken in how the subject of the dismissal is phrased. Give the salient facts only in reference to the dismissed employee and avoid going into too much detail.
It can give a better impression to your client if the main aim of the letter is to inform the client of a new contact within your business. An example of a positively worded start to a letter might be: "We are pleased to introduce your new client liaison contact, John Smith, who will be looking after your account from this point onwards. John has been with the company for two years."
Keep all information given about the dismissed employee factual and to the point. Phrases such as, "... is no longer with the company" are not specific about the manner of leaving and help to avoid generating gossip about the person who has left. If the client wishes to ask you for more information about the manner of leaving, it is up to you if you oblige them, but you should bear in mind that giving more detail about why an employee was terminated can appear unprofessional.
Make sure that you include a section in the letter reassuring the client that the service to them will not be disrupted in any way. In addition to introducing the new client liaison, state that he or she will telephone and make their own personal introduction in the near future. Speak to the new client liaison employee about the call and specify that, if they are asked about the situation with the old employee, they should use the non-specific line taken in the letter rather than engaging in gossip.
If you are unsure what the legalities of discussing a previous employee might be, it is sensible to consult an employment law professional. The libel and slander laws generally only apply to untrue statements, so if you can substantiate your comments and prove their validity, it may not be illegal to discuss why an employee was dismissed. However, it can be perceived as unprofessional and may have a negative effect on your client relations.
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