In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s possible you may have had to furlough some or all of your employees. Unlike firing or laying them off, a furlough is temporary. When there is a loss of revenue but an expectation that it will return, furloughing your employees can be a painful but necessary action. Making the tough decisions in the short term can employ your people for years to come.
It also helps a business retain the right people. These are people you’ve trained and invited into the culture that is your business. This is a timely process. Because you can’t develop an employee overnight, furloughing an employee now is a way to increase your chances of having them later.
Furloughs During Shutdown
When stay-at-home orders were issued throughout the country, many businesses were put in positions where furloughing made logistical sense. Their businesses wouldn’t be permanently closing and there was a high probability that profits would return.
Cutting costs during shutdown by furloughing employees would allow businesses to pay the bare minimum of expenses so that they’d be able to be there when the shutdown orders were lifted.
Changes in Phases
Depending on the state, reopening was organized with things like colors or numbers. The lower the risk for exposure, the earlier the business was allowed to reopen. Even those with higher risk—crowded restaurants, for instance, were granted permission to open with parameters: spaced-out seating, lowered capacity.
As the restrictions were eased, employees were allowed to return to work.
Ending a Furlough
As eager as you may be for your business to return to normal, you can’t simply open your doors, tell your employees to come back, and proceed as you had been.
Because initiating a furlough is done through a letter, ending one will also require one.
A Furlough Recall Letter
Send them an Employment Offer just like you did when you first hired them. There are so many benefits to doing this. First, it will document the offer. Secondly, it will also get your employees on the same page.
For instance, time away from work can create a lot of stressful questions for your employees. They will want to know what has changed and hasn’t changed since they’ve been gone. If you’re a restaurant owner, you can take the time to explain your new safety measures in the wake of COVID-19 and how you intend to minimize their risk and exposure.
Please note that this is an offer. Though your goal might’ve been to retain your talented employees, it is not guaranteed. It is possible they’ve found other work and will not choose to return. Provide a date in the letter for when you expect them to return and allow them to either accept or decline the offer. And it will be documented.
A New Start
With the new offer of employment comes a fresh start, so to speak. Your new terms replace the old ones. So you will want to clarify the position that you are offering them.
Outline the responsibilities of the position, even if the position you are offering is the same. We discussed earlier the importance of re-establishing the lines of communication. This is one way to do it.
Along with the position, you include the hours and wages associated with them.
Has Anything Changed
Set the groundwork for the work that is about to resume. Because you’re likely returning to work after the COVID-19 shutdown, a lot has changed.
And a lot hasn’t. The pandemic continues.
With that said, you will want to tell your employees how you mean to protect them. Maybe work is resuming, but your employees will be allowed to work from home.
If your business model does not allow for this, you can specify rules for social distancing measures, hand washing expectations, staggered shifts, and any other state/federal-ordered mandates regarding your specific industry.
No matter your circumstances, you can continue to take care of your employees by paying them accurately and on time.