A template document, such as for a severance agreement, can be a really good tool. When it is well-drafted, it can function as a checklist to make sure critical items are addressed, help ensure consistency in drafting, and save time. But, the best use of a template will involve customization and require you to think through standard language or provisions. To illustrate some of this, we will walk through some examples of good practices and common problems that might occur with a template severance agreement.
Start with making sure the template has good instructions for the intended audience. Instructions should address when the template should be used – is it for every separation that will have severance, do you have a separate template if someone is forty or older, or a group exit incentive is involved?
The instructions should identify which changes need approval, who can give approval, which provisions may be deleted or modified, alternate language options (such as for payment of severance in a lump sum or over a period of time), and who can answer questions. The instructions can be handled in a variety of ways, such as built into the template, a cover page, or drop-down box options.
Here are some common tips to help with better use of a severance agreement:
While the examples above are specific to a severance document, similar principles can help with other templates. For example, if a template for performance feedback or discipline is used too often, some phrases sound impersonal or even meaningless. If every discipline document states “further violations may result in additional discipline, up to and including termination,” the document may not clearly communicate how serious the issue is.
Offer some alternatives.
Whatever the purpose, some upfront thought about the template can make it a more efficient and useful tool. As always, if you have questions or would like assistance, please contact your Foley & Lardner attorney.