Organizational Wellness

Crafting Professional and Respectful Termination Letters: A Comprehensive Termination Letter Template Guide

Dec 12, 2023
Last Updated Jan 11, 2024

No one enjoys the termination process, not the employer or the employee—but there are ways to make the experience go as smoothly as possible. The termination letter serves as more than a formal announcement; it acts as a bridge between the departing employee and the organization, acknowledging their contributions while also setting the tone for a respectful departure. 

The truth is that 40% of Americans have been laid off or terminated from a job at least once—it’s not an uncommon occurrence. However, an effective employee termination process can help maintain a positive workplace environment and protect the company, both in terms of legal repercussions and brand reputation. The termination letter plays an integral role in shaping how both the departing employee and the remaining workforce perceive the company's values, which impacts employee retention, engagement, and more. This article will take a deep dive into what an effective termination letter template looks like and how companies can make the termination experience healthy and empathetic.


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Understanding the Purpose and Impact of Termination Letters

When the difficult decision to terminate a team member’s employment has been made, the role of a termination letter takes center stage in formally and professionally concluding the employment relationship. The essential functions of termination letters include:

  • Formalizes termination: The letter officially communicates employment termination details, including the reasons for termination, effective data, and relevant information regarding final pay, benefits, and return of company property to ensure clarity and minimize confusion.
  • Provides legal documentation: In some cases, it serves as a legal document to record the termination, which can be important in the event of any disputes or legal issues in the future. The termination letter becomes part of the official employment file. 
  • Supports professional courtesy: An intentionally-written letter demonstrates respect and empathy for the individual, reducing friction and the potential for conflict during the transition. 
  • Reinforcing company culture: When done correctly, termination letters reflect the organization’s commitment to empathy, transparency, and dedication to its core values. 

Crafting these letters with precision, accuracy, and understanding is not only an ethical responsibility but also a strategic step to ensure a smooth transition for both the departing employee and the entire organization.

Key Elements of an Effective Termination Letter

Considering the significance of a termination letter in the severance process, certain essential components must be incorporated to guarantee fair treatment of the employee and to safeguard the company from potential legal repercussions.

  • Reason for Termination: It should clearly state the reason for the termination, whether it's due to poor performance, violation of company policies, restructuring, or other legitimate reasons. This helps both parties understand why the decision was made.
  • Termination Date: It specifies the last working day of the employee. This ensures clarity regarding when the employment relationship officially ends.
  • Details on Final Pay and Benefits: This outlines information about the employee's final paycheck, any accrued vacation or leave balances, and other benefits, like continuation of health insurance (if applicable).
  • Return of Company Property: If there's any company property (e.g., keys, access cards, equipment), the letter should instruct the employee on how to return it.
  • Severance or Compensation Details: If there's a severance package or compensation involved, the letter should specify the terms and conditions.
  • Post-Termination Obligations: The letter may remind the employee of post-employment obligations, such as non-disclosure agreements, non-compete clauses, or non-disparagement clauses.
  • Information about Company Policies: It may include information about the return of company documents, confidentiality, and other company policies that the employee is expected to continue to follow even after termination.
  • Next Steps: It might outline any next steps the employee needs to take, such as returning company property, arranging for an exit interview, or handing over projects to a colleague.

Tailoring the Tone of Your Termination Letter

Parting ways with a company can be a delicate situation, so it’s best to communicate carefully and professionally. That said, not every situation is exactly the same. You may find it easier to empathize by adjusting the letter’s tone based on the employee’s circumstances. Customizing termination letters for diverse scenarios can be more respectful to the individual and helps HR stick to offboarding best practices

For example, in performance-related terminations, it’s good to be considerate but direct and discuss any previous improvement plans that were not adhered to. On the other hand, termination for misconduct may call for a more factual tone while outlining the breach and consequences. Here are some common termination situations and how you can address them with care: 

  • Voluntary resignations: Employees sometimes leave of their own volition. While a termination letter for a resignation is less detailed, express gratitude for the employee's service. Confirm the acceptance of their resignation and reiterate any next steps or outstanding tasks.
  • Involuntary terminations: Approach these scenarios with even more sensitivity, using empathetic and respectful language. Reiterate the reason for the termination without causing unnecessary distress and provide information about any available resources, such as counseling services or assistance with job search.
  • Layoffs or downsizing: If the termination is part of a larger downsizing effort, explain the broader organizational context and discuss severance packages. Highlight any support services the company is offering to affected employees, such as job placement assistance or extended benefits.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Crafting a Termination Letter

Strong termination letters are clear and concise and leave no room for misinterpretation. This doesn’t mean they have to be cold or abrupt. Instead, you can focus on clarity and professionalism as you construct your template. You can use these simple dos and don’ts to double-check your messaging and letter structure. 


  • Language: Use clear and neutral language. Avoid jargon, acronyms, or technical terms that might confuse the recipient.
  • Tone: Maintain a professional, empathetic tone throughout. Express appreciation for the employee's contributions, regardless of the circumstances.
  • Legal compliance: Ensure the letter adheres to all relevant employment laws and regulations. Provide accurate information about benefits, final pay, and any legal obligations.
  • Ethical considerations: Demonstrate respect for the employee's dignity. Focus on facts and avoid personal opinions.


  • Confrontational language: Avoid language that might be perceived as confrontational or antagonistic. The goal is to communicate the decision respectfully and professionally.
  • Blame or guilt: Refrain from assigning blame or making the employee feel guilty. Focus on the objective reasons for the termination.
  • Unnecessary details: While transparency is essential, avoid excessive details that might cause distress or are not directly relevant to the termination.
  • Unprofessional tone: Steer clear of using overly casual or informal language. The letter should maintain a level of formality appropriate for a professional document.

Termination Letter Example: Template Guide

Now let’s look at a termination letter example that covers the fundamentals and offers the most support and clarity for employees. 

  1. Salutation and Opening

Begin by addressing the employee with respect and appreciation: "Dear [Employee's Full Name], [Job Title],". Acknowledge their contributions and time with the company, setting a positive tone.

  1. Termination Announcement

Clearly state the purpose: "We regret to inform you that your employment with [Company Name] will be terminated." Use clear and direct language to convey the decision.

  1. Reason for Termination

Provide a succinct explanation: "This decision is due to [specific performance issues/organizational changes], which have necessitated this action." Be concise while maintaining transparency and professionalism.

  1. Termination Date and Transition Details

Specify the termination date: "Your last working day will be [Termination Date]." Explain any notice period or transitional arrangements. Address the return of company property and administrative steps if needed.

  1. Next Steps and Benefits Information

Detail next actions: "Please return your [list relevant items, e.g., badges, equipment] to [designated location]." If applicable, mention information about final pay, benefits continuation, or severance packages.

  1. Resources and Support

Highlight available resources: "We understand this transition can be challenging, and we offer [career transition/emotional support resources] to assist you.".

  1. Contact Information

Provide a point of contact: "For any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to [HR representative's name] at [contact details]." Emphasize the company's openness to help employees as they navigate this transition.

  1. Appreciation and Well Wishes

Express genuine appreciation for the employee's contributions and achievements during their time with the company. “We want to express our gratitude for your contributions to [Company Name]. Your remarkable dedication has enriched our company, and as you pursue new paths, know that we wish you continual success." Offer well wishes for their future endeavors, expressing understanding and support.

  1. Closing and Signature

Close professionally: "Sincerely," or "Best regards,". Sign with your name and title, or the appropriate company representative's information.

  1. Employee Acknowledgment

Include a space for acknowledgment: "I acknowledge receipt of this termination letter on [date]". This can be signed by the employee, with their signature and date.


Crafting a termination letter with these elements ensures a compassionate and respectful approach to a challenging situation while maintaining professionalism and adhering to legal and ethical standards. Your letter can look something like this:

[Your Company's Letterhead]


[Employee's Full Name]

[Employee's Job Title]

[Employee's Address]


Dear [Employee's Full Name], [Job Title],

We sincerely appreciate your dedication and contributions during your time as [Employee's Job Title] at [Company Name]. However, it is with regret that we must inform you that your employment with our company will be terminated, effective [Termination Date].

This decision is due to [specific performance issues/organizational changes], which have led us to take this necessary action. We understand that this news may be disappointing, and we want to assure you that this decision was not taken lightly.

During this transition, we ask that you return your [list relevant items, e.g., badges, equipment] to [designated location]. Our HR department will guide you through the process of your final paycheck, benefits continuation, and any other relevant administrative details.

We recognize that this change may bring uncertainty, and we're here to support you. Our company offers [career transition/emotional support resources] to assist you in this period of transition. 

For any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact [HR representative's name] at [contact details]. We are here to help and provide any necessary information to facilitate a smooth transition.

Your dedication and contributions to [Company Name] have been valuable, and we genuinely appreciate the time you spent with us. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.


[Your Name]

[Your Title]

[Company Name]

[Company Address]


Acknowledgment of Receipt:

I acknowledge receipt of this termination letter on [Date].



Ensuring Compliance and Legal Considerations

Termination letters may feel routine for HR, but you don’t want to overlook certain details. Some oversights can ruin your company’s reputation and damage your workplace culture. At worst, you may face expensive legal repercussions.

Let’s say you are terminating an employee because they are consistently late for work. What makes their termination the right thing to do at this time? Has the employee been warned before this termination? Have any incidents or behaviors been documented? You want to take all of these factors into consideration as you construct your letter.

Here are some common legal pitfalls to keep top of mind:

  • Inaccurate information. Providing inaccurate reasons for termination or using vague language can lead to misunderstandings and disputes. If the terminated employee believes the reasons are false, it may result in legal action for defamation or wrongful termination.
  • Inconsistent or lacking documentation. In the absence of proper documentation, the terminated employee may challenge the validity of the termination, claiming unfair treatment. 
  • Employee contract issues. Breaching a contract can lead to a breach of contract lawsuit, potentially resulting in financial damages for the company. It's essential to review and comply with the terms outlined in the employment contract.
  • Discrimination or retaliation claims. These claims are very serious in the eyes of the law—discrimination or retaliation claims can result in damages, fines, or even regulatory investigations.
  • Inadequate notice or severance. Failure to comply with notice or severance requirements may result in legal actions for breach of contract or violation of labor laws, leading to financial penalties.
  • Failure to communicate company policies. If the terminated employee claims ignorance of policy violations, it may complicate the company's defense. Clearly communicating policy violations in the termination letter can help mitigate legal risks.

To circumvent potential issues, consult your legal team so that they can confirm your termination letter templates are airtight. It’s also helpful to regularly review your company’s termination policy. This way, you can confidently adhere to employment contracts and labor laws.

Softening the Impact: Additional Considerations

HR can take an active role in employee health and ease the impact of termination, both for departing employees and the remaining team. Providing resources for career transition and guidance on accessing unemployment benefits can ease the transition for those affected. This is a great way to acknowledge the employee's contributions and act according to your wellness culture. 

On those same lines, well-handled terminations also help preserve morale among remaining employees. The peers and team members of terminated employees deserve the same compassion and empathy. While the reason for termination does not need to be shared with current employees, reassurance and open communication is tactful. Doing so promotes transparency and trust, especially when the company offers support and resources. 

Support can come in many forms, including simply sharing the plan for their workload moving forward and if or when a backfill is expected. You may also  offer access to counseling or support services to aid emotional wellbeing during this period, including in the form of employee resource groups.

Protect Your Company Wellness with Wellhub

How you handle employee termination tells your current and future employees a lot about your company culture and how much you care about workforce wellness. By creating a balanced, accurate, and empathetic termination letter, you can support employee wellbeing, no matter their circumstances. 

Another way to care for your workforce is by prioritizing their wellbeing with comprehensive HR benefits. The key to employee retention and satisfaction is ensuring they are well-informed about benefits and know wellness is your organization’s top priority. Talk to a wellbeing specialist today to see how you can better prioritize your employees’ wellness today.

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Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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