Termination of employment

Termination of employment is an employee's departure from a job and the end of an employee's duration with an employer. Termination may be voluntary on the employee's part, or it may be at the hands of the employer, often in the form of dismissal (firing) or a layoff. Dismissal or firing is usually thought to be the fault of the employee, whereas a layoff is usually done for business reasons (for instance a business slowdown or an economic downturn) outside the employee's performance.

Firing carries a stigma in many cultures, and may hinder the jobseeker's chances of finding new employment, particularly if they have been terminated from a previous job. Jobseekers sometimes do not mention jobs from which they were fired on their resumes; accordingly, unexplained gaps in employment, and refusal or failure to contact previous employers are often regarded as "red flags".[1]


Dismissal is when the employer chooses to require the employee to leave, usually for a reason which is the fault of the employee. The most common colloquial terms for dismissal in the United States are "getting fired" or "getting canned" whereas in the United Kingdom the terms "getting the sack" or "getting sacked" are also used.


A less severe form of involuntary termination is often referred to as a layoff (also redundancy or being made redundant in British English). A layoff is usually not strictly related to personal performance, but instead due to economic cycles or the company's need to restructure itself, the firm itself going out of business or a change in the function of the employer (for example, a certain type of product or service is no longer offered by the company and therefore jobs related to that product or service are no longer needed). One type of layoff is the aggressive layoff; in such a situation, the employee is laid off, but not replaced as the job is eliminated.

In an economy based on at-will employment, such as that of the United States, a large proportion of workers may be laid off at some time in their life, and often for reasons unrelated to performance or ethics. Employment termination can also result from a probational period, in which both the employee and the employer reach an agreement that the employer is allowed to lay off the employee if the probational period is not satisfied.

Often, layoffs occur as a result of "downsizing", "reduction in force" or "redundancy". These are not technically classified as firings; laid-off employees' positions are terminated and not refilled, because either the company wishes to reduce its size or operations or otherwise lacks the economic stability to retain the position. In some cases, a laid-off employee may eventually be offered their old position again by their respective company, though by this time they may have found a new job.

Some companies resort to attrition (voluntary redundancy) as a means to reduce their workforce.[2] Under such a plan, no employees are forced to leave their jobs. However, those who do depart voluntarily are not replaced. Additionally, employees are given the option to resign in exchange for a fixed amount of money, frequently a few years of their salary. Such plans have been carried out by the United States Federal Government under President Bill Clinton during the 1990s,[3] and by the Ford Motor Company in 2005.[4]

However, "layoff" may be specifically addressed and defined differently in the articles of a contract in the case of unionised work.

Termination by mutual agreement

Some terminations occur as a result of mutual agreement between the employer and employee. When this happens, it is sometimes debatable if the termination was truly mutual. In many of these cases, it was originally the employer's wish for the employee to depart, but the employer offered the mutual termination agreement in order to soften the firing (as in a forced resignation). But there are also times when a termination date is agreed upon before the employment starts (as in an employment contract).

Some types of termination by mutual agreement include:

  • The end of an employment contract for a specified period of time (such as an internship)
  • Mandatory retirement. Some occupations, such as commercial airline pilots, face mandatory retirement at a certain age.
  • Forced resignation

Changes of conditions

Firms that wish for an employee to exit of their own accord but do not wish to pursue firing or forced resignation, may degrade the employee's working conditions, hoping that they will leave "voluntarily".

The employee may be moved to a different geographical location, assigned to an undesirable shift, given too few hours if part time, demoted (or relegated to a menial task), or assigned to work in uncomfortable conditions. Other forms of manipulation may be used, such as being unfairly hostile to the employee, and punishing him or her for things that are deliberately overlooked with other employees.

Often, these tactics are done so that the employer won't have to fill out termination papers in jurisdictions without at-will employment. In addition, with a few exceptions, employees who voluntarily leave generally cannot collect unemployment benefits.

Such tactics may amount to constructive dismissal, which is illegal in some jurisdictions.

Pink slip

Pink slip refers to the American practice, by a human resources department, of including a discharge notice in an employee's pay envelope to notify the worker of their termination of employment or layoff.[5]

The "pink slip" has become a metonym for the termination of employment in general. According to an article in The New York Times, the editors of the Random House Dictionary have dated the term to at least as early as 1910. [5]

The phrase may have originated in vaudeville. When the United Booking Office (established in 1906) would issue a cancellation notice to an act, the notice was on a pink slip.[6] Another possible etymology is that many applications (including termination papers) are done in triplicate form, with each copy on a different color of paper, one of which is typically pink.[7]

In the 1958 Chilly Willy cartoon, "Little Televillain" Mr. Stoop tells Smedley that if he's disturbed while reading show scripts, he would be forced to pink slip him. Smedley indicates that he doesn't know the meaning of a "pink slip", so Mr. Stoop yells at him: "It means...you will be fired!"

In the UK and, until 1 January 2019 in Ireland, the equivalent of a pink slip is a P45; in Belgium the equivalent is known as a C4.[8]

Rehire following termination

Depending on the circumstances, a person whose employment has been terminated may not be able to be rehired by the same employer.

If the decision to terminate was the employee's, the willingness of the employer to rehire is often contingent upon the relationship the employee had with the employer, the amount of notice given by the employee prior to departure, and the needs of the employer. In some cases, when an employee departed on good terms, she/he may be given special priority by the employer when seeking rehire.

An employee who was fired by an employer may not be eligible for rehire by the same employer, although in some cases it is usually related to staffing issues.

Employment can be terminated without prejudice, meaning the fired employee may be rehired for the same job in the future. This is usually true in the case of layoff.

Conversely, a person's employment can be terminated with prejudice, meaning an employer will not rehire the former employee for the same job in the future. This can be for many reasons: incompetence, policy violation, misconduct (such as dishonesty or "zero tolerance" violations), insubordination or "attitude" (personality clashes with peers or bosses).

Termination forms ("pink slips") routinely include a set of check boxes where a supervisor can indicate "with prejudice" or "without prejudice".

For example, public school teachers in New York who are laid off are placed on a Preferred Eligible List for employment in the school district where they were laid off for seven years from the date of layoff. If a teacher who was laid off applies to fill a job opening, they are given priority over other applicants.

See also


  1. "10 Reasons Employees Get Fired". BeingFired.com. Archived from the original on 2013-08-18. Retrieved 2013-11-29.
  2. "attrition - Definitions from Dictionary.com". Dictionary.reference.com. Archived from the original on 2013-12-03. Retrieved 2013-11-29.
  3. "Bill Clinton for President 1992 Campaign Brochure". 4president.org. 2007-09-22. Archived from the original on 2014-02-27. Retrieved 2013-11-29.
  4. Woodyard, Chris (2006-01-25). "Ford will cut 25,000 to 30,000 jobs, close 14 plants". Usatoday.Com. Archived from the original on 2012-04-21. Retrieved 2013-11-29.
  5. Prial, Frank J. (18 June 1991). ""Among Those Let Go, the Pink Slip Itself"". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-22.
  6. "The Argot of Vaudeville Part I", The New York Times, December 16, 1917, p. X7.
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-01-17. Retrieved 2017-12-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2018-03-10. Retrieved 2018-03-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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