Layoff or Firing Process.
Following proper and compliant procedures during the layoff or firing process is essential to preventing legal trouble. Every organization should make managers aware of guidelines that will ensure legal practices. There are many laws that protect employees. For example, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) protects workers, their families, and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs.
Here are our top 10 guidelines when performing layoffs in order to remain compliant and minimize liability for your company:
- Communicate the changes in your company. If you’re able to provide advance notice that layoffs are inevitable, do so. There may be rare instances of voluntary resignation. At the very least, this will give your employees a chance to process the likelihood of a layoff, resulting in a more well-managed reaction when the time comes. If you’re unable to give advance notice, communicate the changes right after the layoffs.
- Treat them with dignity. Allow employees to say goodbye to co-workers. If they are particularly emotional, offer a chance to come back and clean their desks at a later time, or offer to ship their personal effects. How you treat employees (both the ones leaving and the ones staying) will set the tone for morale during this economic storm.
- Be sympathetic. This can be an emotional turbulence for all parties involved, including management’s. Consider everyone’s feelings and repercussions.
- Select carefully. Make sure you are not setting yourself up for a lawsuit by eliminating a group of people from a protected class (race, gender, sexual orientation, age), close to retirement, with outstanding claims against your company or currently on leave. Keep employees who are key performers.
- Do it all at once. If laying off more than one, it is okay to do so in a group setting. Employee morale will suffer more if one person is being let go each week. Anxiety levels will rise and productivity will go down. If a group layoff is not possible, consider a communication to all employees once layoffs are complete to relieve anxiety for existing employees.
- Give informational packets. Understand employees won’t necessarily “hear” the information you are giving verbally. They’re thinking about the job they just lost. Give them a packet of information to take home that gives details of the layoff, outlines any severance agreement, information on obtaining unemployment insurance and when they will receive insurance continuation benefits.
- Script the meeting and keep it brief. Communicate the same message to all separating employees.
- Pair up. If possible, always have two managers deliver the news together. The direct manager of the employee should be present if not the one conducting the layoff. Be mindful of those who might react violently and take proper precautions.
- Deliver the news on a Thursday. This minimizes distraction in the form of ‘buzz’ going around the office and allows the laid off employee(s) one business day to process the news and then a weekend to obtain some distance from the event allowing a fresh start on Monday.
- Get human resources involved! They are trained to help you through this process. It is never easy to conduct layoffs. If you do not have a human resource expert, consult a PEO. Several, including Tandem HR, offer free resources like Outplacement Kits and Employee Assistance Programs.
For more information visit Tandem HR or call 630.928.0510. The staff at Tandem HR contributed to this article. It is intended as information only and is not a substitute for legal advice.
Tandem HR is a professional employer organization specializing in strategic HR partnership with small and mid-sized businesses.