Getting Back to Normal: Rehiring Laid-Off Employees

Last year was tough on everybody, but few groups have been struck harder by 2020 than business owners. Many entrepreneurs were forced to completely close their enterprises, and even more of them were forced to make some very difficult decisions.

Thousands of people were laid-off due to COVID-19 last year. This trend was not limited to any industry. Regardless of whether they were working with people or held office positions, nobody was safe from the wave of layoffs that accompanied the pandemic-induced financial crisis.

Some businesses might have avoided unnecessary layoffs, thanks to business continuity management software or advisors that helped them weather the storm. Unfortunately, most companies did have to fire a significant portion of their workforce. However, as another wave of the pandemic is slowly coming to an end, and effective vaccines are being rolled out in most countries of the world, business is expected to get back on track in 2021. That may lead employers to consider hiring back some of the people they have laid off in the previous months.

Rehiring old employees is a good idea, not only because you’ll be giving them their jobs back, but because you’ll be getting someone with proven experience in your industry, and you know what to expect of their performance. You will, however, need to implement some safety mechanisms in order to ensure that your hiring process is fair for all candidates and does not favor laid-off employees.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at how to rehire former employees, and what protocols and rules you need to set up in order for everything to go as smoothly as possible.

Hire-Back Policy

Having a strong, cohesive hire-back policy is an absolute must if you want to rehire old employees. It will help you build a solid case for rehiring the person and ensure that you are protected if you do bring the worker back.

A good hire-back policy will do more than just show that you want to rehire previous workers, but will also protect your business. Your policy should:

  • Allow for people to come back without the position being posted,
  • State that you have the right to bring former workers back, even if they never submitted job applications. This is an important protection against wrongful termination lawsuits,
  • State that applicants must be given equal consideration with other candidates by the hiring manager, even if they have prior relationships with other managers,

Make it clear that the candidate must be treated in an equal manner with new employees. Your skilled laborers know what’s in their contracts or offer letters, so make sure to point it out clearly. If you are bringing a new employee in at a higher wage than those being hired back, make sure to address that difference. They may take this as a reason not to return to your company.

While generally, you may want to raise wages following an expansion, don’t increase them too much for those who are coming back. This is especially true if these employees received raises when they were last with you, or if they’ve had experience working for other companies since then. The increased wages might make other workers feel like they can get better opportunities elsewhere. At the very least, you will be facing a loss of morale from those workers who choose to leave rather than get less pay.

Keep Tabs on Your Former Employees

Once you have a good hire-back policy in place, you should consider implementing a system with which you can keep track of the former employees you might want to rehire. Keeping tabs on laid-off workers will make your choices easier and expedite the process of actually rehiring them. When going through your  list, you’ll want to keep these factors in mind:

  • Get an e-mail address for the candidate,
  • Give a brief explanation about why you are reaching out,
  • Get a callback number and give them a call later in case there’s no answer,
  • Offer your personal cell phone number just in case there are questions you need to answer immediately.

You should also make it a point to contact former employees whose skills have changed but whom you believe still fit into your culture because they’re familiar with it—even if they’ve moved on and changed jobs themselves. Say, for example, you need to fill up a Head of Engineering position and you remember a really good engineer that left years ago (rehiring is not limited to post-COVID situations), but now they seem like an absolutely perfect fit since a lot of time has passed and the candidate has gained working experience on other projects or in other companies.

The Bottom Line

Rehiring former employees is a sound business practice if you go about it the right way. Especially in times like these, you’ll be giving the opportunity of employment to people who desperately need it. Of course, they might not accept your offer because you’re the one who laid them off in the first place, but there is nothing you can actually do about that.

As long as you’ve got the right legal framework within which you’re operating, you can bring your business up to speed and improve your performance by getting workers you’re familiar with and who has experience in your field. Also, remember to keep tabs on your former employees and stay in touch with them, even long after the COVID-19 pandemic. If you ever need skilled workers to fill up a spot, you will be able to reach out to them!