Rehiring Furloughed Employees Amidst COVID-19: 4 Things to Consider

Hand cleaning laptop keyboardAs a result of the coronavirus lockdown, industries all over the country came to a sudden halt. In an effort to save their businesses, many business leaders responded to the crisis by placing their staff on furlough (unpaid leave) rather than laying them off entirely.

Furloughing employees helps the employer keep their head above water during an unusual economic decline, while still retaining the talent their business needs to succeed. As states begin lifting the strict stay-at-home orders, companies will begin slowly bringing back their furloughed employees. 

As you begin to consider bringing back furloughed employees, keep these 4 things in mind. 

Actively Communicate With Furloughed Employees 

This one may be obvious but it's always important to provide proactive communication and reassurance to employees. After all, theis to bring back the same staff without having to recruit, hire, and onboard an entirely new set of employees. 

During employee furloughs, many are left wondering when they will be able to return back to work or if they’ll even have a job after all of this craziness settles. Without a word from their employers they might begin seeking employment elsewhere. The terms of a furlough are specific to each company but unless the employee signs a furlough contract that explicitly forbids them from seeking additional work elsewhere, they are free to do so.

While you can't ask an employee to handle work-related situations during their furlough, you can and should keep the lines of communication open and maintain a level of transparency with your furloughed employees. In order to keep your staff actively engaged and committed to your company be sure to send your employee check in emails and let them know where the company stands right now and what the future looks like over the next few weeks. Most importantly, make sure to let them know you are there for them, and your intention is to bring them back as soon as you can. 

Come Up With a Plan

Considering bringing back furloughed employees after such a terrifying time is a reason to celebrate, but it’s important to make sure you are taking the right steps at the right time. After all, one of the main reasons for furloughs is to help businesses save money by reducing staff and labor costs. Jumping the gun on bringing employees back too early could hurt you more than it’ll help you.

Chances are, if you furloughed employees during the pandemic, you did so to multiple departments. Rather than bringing back all employees at once do so periodically so that the financial transition is as smooth as possible for your organization. Take a look at the needs of your business and rehire the employees that will be the biggest assets to your businesses direct needs. As the effects of COVID-19 stabilize, create a timeline for the remaining employees to rejoin your team as needed and is financially possible. 

Go Over Terms of Employment

As you rehire furloughed employees, transparency is key when it comes to understanding changes to the terms of employment. Lay out whether any of the employee’s terms of employment have changed regardless if the changes are minor or major. Be especially clear about salaries and/or hours if they have been reduced. Provide a letter that states the superseding of any previous terms of employment. And, explicitly lay out the date that you request the employee back at work. 

Be sure to include the following: 

  • Position
  • Supervisor
  • Responsibilities / Job Description
  • Salary
  • Hours
  • Exempt / Non-Exempt Status
  • Company Seniority post-COVID-19
  • Benefits 
  • Accrued PTO
  • Sick Leave

Implement and Educate New Safety Procedures

Just because employees are coming off of furlough does not mean the crisis is officially over. In fact, the crisis is still in full effect and employees (if possible) should still work from home for the foreseeable future. In industries and positions where it is not possible to work from home, it is the responsibility of the employer to implement a safe working environment. We recommend compiling a welcome letter that outlines what you as the employer are doing to keep the workplace safe. 

You might consider including some of the following in a “Welcome Back” letter: 

  • Sanitation measures
  • Social distancing in the office 
  • Reduced office capacity 
  • Staggered shifts 

What other ways is your company preparing to bring back furloughed employees? Let us know in the comments below. 

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