Being able to recall furloughed employees is cause for celebration, especially nowadays with COVID-19's continued impact, and planning ahead can help the rehiring and reboarding process go smoothly for everyone. So, if you’re considering ending a furlough as part of reopening your business, there are some important things to think about as you build out your plan to welcome employees back to work. It’s important to note that any information contained in this article should not be considered legal advice, and it is important for every organization to have their own legal counsel review their rehiring plan to ensure it aligns with company policies, as well as state and federal laws.
Determine what changes, if any, need to be made to stay compliant
You may have had to rework positions, responsibilities, and terms of employment due to reduced headcount or other reasons. It’s critical to keep state and federal regulations top of mind when considering these types of changes – here are a couple of compliance-related questions to ask yourself:
- Will the changes reduce an employee’s salary so that they become an exempt employee?
- Will the changes in pay meet state or federal minimum wage requirements?
- Will any changes to bonuses, commissions, tenure, leave, or other benefits align with state and federal compliance regulations?
If you’re not sure how the answers to these questions affect your business, reach out to your legal counsel to discuss this further before taking action. If you do make any changes, document them in your human capital management (HCM) system, along with effective dates, so that they can easily be tracked and reported on.
Identify which employees to rehire
Determining who will receive an offer to return to work and when is another critical aspect of the rehiring process. When planning this out bear in mind that not everyone you extend an offer to will accept – they may not want to come back just yet or they may have found a job elsewhere, so build in a backup plan upfront. To help mitigate risk of potential discrimination claims, be sure to review any collective bargaining agreements and honor any negotiated terms to bring employees back in a certain order (i.e. seniority, etc.). Also, review state and federal laws to ensure that you are in compliance with anti-discrimination laws when determining who you will be bringing back to work.
Finally, make sure to take into account any documentation, like I9s, that may need to be updated because they have expired or the employee is not considered to have been continuously employed. Documenting your reason for rehiring employees, ensuring that any documentation that needs to be updated is flagged in your HRIS system and having the ability to report on that data will be critical in the event you are audited, or a claim is filed.
Extend an employment offer
When you’re ready, send out offer letters to those employees you’ll be bringing back. This shouldn’t simply be a set of instructions on when and where to show up, but rather, an opportunity to be completely transparent about what coming back to work will look like for them. Clearly outline both what hasn’t changed and what has, and how.
For example, if you're making any changes to salary, responsibilities, reporting structure, benefits, seniority, PTO, etc. outline these items and whether they are permanent or temporary changes. In a post-pandemic world, like the one we're living in today, employees will also want to understand how you will provide them with a safe work environment so give them any details of the measures you’re taking in this regard. Lastly, give employees some time to consider the offer and clearly define the timeline along with the requirement to provide a response on their decision.
Define a reboarding process and experience for employees
This is a very rare second chance for you to make a first impression, so welcome your employees back as if it was their very first day. Reacquaint them with their team, their role, and the company culture, and be sure to train them on new procedures that are in place and empower them to get back into the swing of things.
Provide employees with referenceable resources that they can easily access so they can revisit important information at their own pace. Your employees are likely in a vulnerable state after being out of work for a while so it will be more important than ever to provide transparent and supportive ongoing communication to help them navigate changes and give them a sense of being looked after. Give employees a sense of belonging by sharing how they fit into, and contribute to, the company’s strategic goals. Keep the lines of communication open by adopting an “open door” policy with HR and encourage employees to reach out to provide constructive feedback.
Conclusion: Thinking through rehiring and reboarding will help you get it done fast
Having a well-thought-out and comprehensive plan for rehiring and reboarding furloughed employees will help the process go smoothly. Being transparent with employees around changes to their positions, pay, and what changes you’ve made around workplace safety will go a long way in reestablishing trust. Equally important is the ability to engage your rehired employees from the moment they walk in the door, which will help them feel needed and help ease them back into their roles at work. The lines of communication should remain open to allow you provide employees with updates and allow employees to provide you with feedback. This will help employees feel supported and you will be able to improve your onboarding plans moving forward based on the feedback you receive.
If you have questions about reopening your business, bringing back employees, or any other aspect of managing through our current uncertain times, we invite you to visit our resource page to get additional insights.