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Employee security: Layoffs are high risk situations.

Employee Security – High risk terminations

Employee security: dismissals create risks.
Employee security: dismissals create risks.

Employee security really does matter. Your employees are the lifeblood of every organisation. You put a lot of effort into hiring new staff, you train them, you nurture them and in return you get a massive amount of value. However, like it nor not, there will come a point in time when even your best employee goes.

This is when your employee security program gets really tested. Even an amicable departure, where the employee is happily leaving for a new job, retirement or just to live a life of luxury after winning the lottery, carries with it risks for your business.

When the employee is being dismissed things are much worse. If the employee has access to company secrets, or special privileges, then you have a very high risk termination on your hands.

No one ever wants to plan for layoffs, downsizing or employee misconduct but if one of these bad things happens to your business, if you haven’t planned for it, the pain will be significantly greater.

Employee security - Layoffs frequently raise tension and create risk across the business.
Employee security – Layoffs frequently raise tension and create risk across the business.

When you dismiss an employee, for whatever reason, everyone involved is in an emotional state. This means mistakes will be made, tempers lost and bad things may happen. Bad things can range from losing data and clients, to acts of violence and vandalism.

You prevent this by having a clearly understood process, documented beforehand and agreed with any unions or employee representation. While this wont make anyone any happier, it does mean you have the best possible chance to minimise any further harm.

Planning your employee security program to cover the whole career of your employees makes much more sense.

Employee Security – the basics

Fundamentally, there are three stages to employee security:

  • Pre-employment. This is what you do before you hire them. This includes, interviews, reference checks, tests etc. For sensitive posts you should consider BS7858 screening and for sensitive Government work clearances  and vetting are likely to be needed.
  • During employment. Once you employ someone, it is crucial you dont just drop end your employee security at the screening. Make sure employees are engaged and supported by your organisation throughout their career.
  • Resignation and dismissals. This is the high risk area, the employee is about to leave and no longer has any loyalties or formal obligations. Disgruntled employees may steal or break things, aggressive employees may become violent and even otherwise perfect employees may take company secrets to their new employer.

Employee Security – your plans

Planning your employee security program is essential. Good planning will show your stakeholders your commitment to security and, in the event of a dispute, will provide evidence that your organisation has acted fairly and in a pre-agreed manner. If a dismissal goes to an employment tribunal, following a pre-arranged plan is pretty much essential.

You need to plan for each stage and should look to produce a published policy on employee security, laying out the objectives and reinforcing management commitment to the principles of fairness and security.

From this build in a list of plans for how you will address each of the three stages and what your expectations are.

An example would be documenting what pre-employment checks will take place, who carries them out, how decisions should be made on findings and how long data will be retained for both people offered a job and those turned down.

Employee Security – Resignations and Dismissals

Planning around employee exits is so important, it is suggested that you create several plans depending on the nature of your employees. You need to consider the role of the employee and what assets they have access to as well as the nature of the departure.

At a minimum, your plans must consider the following employee groups:

  • Employees with access to commercially sensitive information. This includes sales teams, commercial managers, developers etc. It is good practice to ensure Non Disclosure Agreements are in place and the employee is reminded of any obligations on exit.
  • Employees with privileged access. When it comes to system administrators, key holders and the like, you need to ensure your process fully revokes all access and is able to check that nothing has been subverted before the employee is finally let go. Discovering a problem after they have gone is going to cause you all kinds of pain.
  • Employees with high value assets. If you have team members who look after large amounts of cash, company cars etc, your plan should document how these are accounted for before the employee leaves.

Additionally, at a minimum, you need to plan for the following types of departure:

  • Retirement. Here the employee is likely to leave on good terms but you will lose corporate knowledge and should look to capture as much as possible.
  • Resignation to move to a new line of work. Similar to retirement, the employee is likely to be on good terms but you need to be sure all assets are returned and any commercially sensitive knowledge is protected.
  • Resignation to move to a competitor. While the employee may be on good terms, there is an increased risk of knowledge theft or the employee looking to access your clients for their new organisation. Ensure all plans include reinforcement of any NDA / Non-Compete agreements.
  • Dismissal from downsizing / restructuring. The employee is likely to be angry and annoyed at the organisation so efforts should be made to minimise any confrontation or situations which could lead to escalation. In most circumstances, once an employee is notified of a dismissal they should not be expected to continue with productive work.
  • Dismissal for misconduct. This is the highest risk. The employee is likely to be shocked and angry with a significant tendency to lash out. Your plan should look to minimise stress on all parties, ideally ensuring that the employee is notified by at least two people and once notified, the employee should not be permitted to return to any form of work or retain any company assets.

Planning your security

There is a lot to consider with employee security but it is crucially important to your business.

When you are a new or growing company, frequently taking on new, great, staff, the prospects of dismissal may seem impossibly distant. Unfortunately this is not true and it is a very real event for pretty much every business.

If you plan properly – in advance – when your employees leave everyone will be happier and able to move on. If you fail to plan properly, the outcomes can be catastrophic.