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A Complete Guide to the Employee Separation Process [+ Templates]

Written by: Jennifer Gaskin

Sep 16, 2021

employee separation

Adding a new employee is an exciting time, but letting one go is much less pleasant an experience, even when they leave on good terms. While you might think employee separation is a quick and simple process, the truth is that it can get out of control without good procedures and processes in place to make sure it goes smoothly.

Creating a standard process that’s followed in every situation is important, and visual communication tools like manuals, checklists, standard operating procedures and others can keep tasks from falling through the cracks.

Whether you need templates for employee separation or any other employee communications need, Venngage for Business has you covered.

Click to jump ahead:

What is employee separation?

Employee separation refers to the circumstances, timing and method by which an employee leaves their job. It can be a negative or positive experience for both employee and employer, depending on the circumstances.

employee separation

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding how and why the individual leaves their job, it’s important for an organization to make a plan for this process, including when they quit as well as when they are fired.

For example, one of the most well-known employment separation practices is providing a two weeks’ notice before voluntarily leaving a job. However, that’s not the only way of doing things, and companies should take time to plan for how they will handle various situations.

Is employee separation the same as termination?

All employee separations can be classified as employment termination, though not all of them mean a person was fired. Even in positive situations where an individual retires after a long career (or when it’s mandatory retirement), on a certain date, they will be formally terminated as an employee.

What are the four kinds of employee separation?

Some organizations may outline many more than four types of employee separations, but generally, it can be divided into these categories:

  • Voluntary separation (voluntary termination): An employee decides to leave their job for another one.
  • Retirement: A person chooses to remove themselves from the workforce.
  • Involuntary separation (involuntary termination): A company ends a person’s employment, usually on a long-term or permanent basis.
  • Layoff: A company ends a person’s employment, potentially on a temporary basis.
employee separation

Involuntary separation—what most people call being fired—is a broad category that can have a variety of subsets. For example, someone terminated for cause, such as because they were stealing, would not be able to regain employment at a future date, but someone fired for reasons outside their control could well be considered for re-hire in the future.

And while a layoff is technically an involuntary termination, in many companies, laid-off employees are invited back if the organization’s financial status or needs change. This is considered a temporary separation. In some cases, they may need to go through the entire hiring process again, though some companies provide a special process for those who have been laid off.

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Is employee separation different from offboarding?

Yes, employee separation is not the same thing as offboarding, though they are related. It’s reasonable to say that employee separation triggers the offboarding process, but the circumstances of how employment ends is just the beginning of an offboarding procedure.

Typically, offboarding will focus more on what the business needs in order to continue operating without this employee. Posting job openings, considering promotions, changing passwords and more—all of these are part of offboarding that don’t have anything to do with the employee separation itself.

For more information about the offboarding process, read our guide to the perfect offboarding process with employee offboarding checklist templates at your fingertip.

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What is the typical employee separation process?

The process of employee separation depends on why and how the person leaves (or is asked to leave). Let’s take a look at the process for both voluntary and involuntary separation.

Voluntary separation process

The steps are broadly the same for resignations and retirements, including:

  • Employee gives notice
  • Notice period
  • Last day
  • Exit interview
  • Last check


Typically, a resignation process starts with the employee giving a separation notice and ends with the person receiving the last paycheck (and pay for employee benefits, vacation pay etc. in some cases.)

employee separation

For most of the steps in this process, there’s a template you can make use of. Check out templates for employee separation checklist, company announcement of separation, going party announcement down below.


Whether it’s mandatory or not, the retirement process kicks off a series of financial and government status changes and employees will have many forms to fill out. The documents required for this process might be very different from a general resignation process, but the steps are quite similar:

employee separation

Involuntary separation process

Many of the necessary steps listed above still occur in an involuntary separation, but they are usually less amicable and are more likely to take place in writing since there’s not likely to be a lengthy, positive notice period.

Here are the general steps involved in involuntary separation:

  • Need for termination is established
  • Person is fired
  • Exit interview
  • Last check


employee separation

Although this process is quite similar to a voluntary separation, the nature of it is completely different. It’s important to ensure that the terminated employee is able to leave with dignity and does not feel they’ve been made a spectacle of.

Here are some more notes to take into consideration when conducting an involuntary termination process:

  • Documentation period: Whether a person is being terminated for bad behavior or poor performance, their supervisor, department head and HR department should take time to document the reasons for termination and conduct severance agreements. Depending on the company, this could be anywhere from a day to several weeks.
  • Employee is fired: Firing should be done in person and at the beginning of the employee’s shift so that they do not feel that they’ve wasted an entire day of work at a job they were going to be fired from anyway. However, it may not be possible to control the time of day the person is fired, particularly if their firing is related to behavior problems.
  • Employee returns keys, keycards, ID cards and equipment: Ensure that a company representative is near the terminated employee until they leave the premises and that they have returned any items before they depart.
  • Logins and emails are cut off: Depending on the circumstances surrounding the person’s termination, it may be wise to cut off their access to crucial systems before they are fired or while they are being fired.


Some layoffs are permanent, but some may be temporary. For this reason, it’s usually wise to conduct layoffs as soon as possible so that laid-off employees do not feel their time has been wasted. The process typically goes like this:

employee separation

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Templates for employee separation documents and checklists

Various documents are required before, during and even after a termination process. Here are some templates to help make the employment termination process easier for both HR and the employee.

Exit interview questions

employee separation

An exit interview is just one step in the employee separation process. In many cases, it’s one of the last steps, and it can be conducted in person or in writing. This template includes a list of questions you can ask the employee during the offboarding process.

Company announcement of separation

employee separation

You can customize this template for an announcement of separation when an employee resigns from a position. Save it as a PDF or export it as an HTML file that can be emailed to your staff.

If you’re looking for an announcement template for involuntary separation, this one is the one for you:

employee separation

Employee farewell party announcement

employee separation

Most companies choose to hold farewell parties for those leaving on good terms. If you’re arranging a going away party for an employee, this is a template you can customize and export to send over in an email to all staff, or save as a PNG and share with your peers through other communications tools like Slack.

If you’ve got the words down and just looking for a flyer-like template, here’s one for you. It’s for a retirement party, but you can customize it for any farewell party, really.

employee separation

Employee offboarding checklists

Keeping track of the separation process can be a challenge, and this is particularly true in companies where team members may have access to sensitive locations in your company or may control logins and passwords to websites and other systems.

employee separation

This general employee separation checklist divides the tasks among supervisor, employee and the items that need to be returned to the company, making it easy for everyone involved in the process to keep track of what needs to be completed.

employee separation

On another note, this simple offboarding checklist is reserved for Human Resources, to keep track of what they need to do or need to ask the employee to complete during the termination process.

Employment separation handbook

Your process for separation, both voluntary and involuntary, should be spelled out in your employee handbook so people are aware what is expected of them when they leave. Specific procedures may differ by department, and it’s sometimes necessary to create additional materials based on equipment, accounts and other areas to which employees have access.

employee separation

Customize an employee handbook template like this one to spell out the separation policies in effect for your employees. Remember that some separations may be unpleasant, but nobody will stay forever.

Equipment return checklist

employee separation

If your company needs to provide team members with access to sensitive or expensive equipment, consider creating a document like this that ensures items are returned in good condition before the person’s employment ends.

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Employee separation FAQs

Do you have more questions about employee separation? We have answers.

What are the benefits of employee separation?

It’s natural to think of employee separation as negative, but it can have many benefits. A poorly performing employee can drag down an entire department, as the work they produce is subpar, which puts a burden on others. And even when a good worker wants to leave, if you make it difficult for them to move on, they will grow resentful and may not give you adequate notice.

What is the separation process in HR?

Employee separation is an important process in HR that establishes the procedures and steps involved in ending a person’s tenure at a company, cutting off their access to crucial systems, determining how and when they will receive their last check and more.

In summary: Manage employee separation with visual tools to keep things organized

Employee separation is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be a terrible experience. Venngage for Employee Communications can help your team create visual tools to ensure a smooth, organized process.

About Jennifer Gaskin

A veteran of newsrooms and agencies, Jennifer Gaskin is a writer, editor and designer who is the only living person not to have strong feelings on the Oxford comma. She's an award-winning practitioner of journalism and information design who spent the better part of a decade as the creative director of a digital marketing shop. As a writer, Jennifer contributes to a variety of publications while working with clients as well as taking on her own projects.