Five ways to handle a bitter ex-employee

  • Business Advice
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Employees leave their jobs all the time. Maybe they found a role that’s closer to their dream job. Maybe they want to strike out on their own. Or maybe they’re moving to Hawaii. Whatever the reason, most people leave on a positive note. They work their notice, you give them a good reference and everyone’s happy. But sometimes you come across someone with a grudge. For whatever reason, they’ve decided they want to burn all bridges and cause as much harm as possible, both before and after they’ve left. Even if the relationship between you and the employee is beyond repair, here are five ways to minimise the risks to your business.

  1. Arrange an exit interview with the employee

Once your employee has handed in their resignation letter, arrange an exit interview or meeting with them. Remind them of their contractual duties while they work their notice. These could be clauses related to confidentiality and accessing company information. If their contract mentions things they aren’t allowed to do after they leave, let them know how the business will deal with any breaches.

  1. Manage them during their notice period

Does your disgruntled employee have access to confidential information, such as customer lists? If they wanted to cause you harm, they could download this data and use it against you in the future. How would you feel if all your best clients suddenly left you for no apparent reason? To prevent this from happening, give your employee tasks that don’t involve sensitive data. You could also add a clause in your contracts of employment that allows you to give some of their duties to another employee during their notice period.

  1. Stop your employee from coming into work

If you have serious concerns that your employee could be disruptive during their notice period, you could prevent them from coming into work. One option is to put them on gardening leave. This means that you still employ the worker, but they get to stay at home. This will ensure they can’t come to work and cause trouble. You can also use payment in lieu of notice (PILON). This ends their employment straight away, with the employee receiving the pay they would have got at the end of their notice period. The downside of PILON is that the employee would immediately be free to take their knowledge of your business to a competitor. Or they might even set up on their own. One way around this to include restrictive covenants in your contracts. A restrictive covenant is a clause that prevents an employee from competing with you for a certain period of time after they’ve left.

  1. Document everything

Your employee’s file should contain all important documentation, including their resignation letter and any minutes you take at the exit interview. This may seem like a chore, but the employee could make a tribunal claim against you. The chances of this have increased since the Supreme Court outlawed tribunal fees in 2017. Your angry employee may not have a solid case against you and may just be trying their luck. But if you have thorough documentation to back you up, you’ll increase your chances of winning the case.

  1. Keep an eye on Glassdoor

Glassdoor is a website where your current and former employees can review your business. Many people check it before applying to work for a company. Anyone can set up a page for your company and leave comments and ratings. And if you’ve ever looked at Amazon or Tripadvisor reviews, you’ll know that people with negative feedback are usually the most vocal. It’s worth signing up for an employer account. This gives you more control over what appears on your profile, and lets you reply to any negative comments with your side of the story.


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