Experiencing a recession or other financial issue that requires you to lay off employees is one of the most stressful times a small business owner can go through.
But re-hiring those laid off workers may come in a close second if you’re not prepared for legal and other issues that may arise.
If you’re not careful, you may end up receiving a discrimination claim when you start hiring back your laid-off employees. Remember: Fair employment laws apply to rehiring laid-off workers, just as they do to new hires.
Protect yourself by writing a clear rehire policy that lays out exactly how you’ll make the determination about who you’re going to bring back, and when.
For added protection, have an attorney read over your policy to make sure it can’t come back to haunt you in the case of a discrimination suit.
List Your Rehire Criteria Carefully
While writing your rehire policy, be cautious about your list of criteria you’ll use to decide who gets to come back.
Re-hiring based on skills, training, and knowledge of your company and procedures are excellent choices. Re-hiring based on whether or not you can still afford that employee’s salary can lead you into hot water.
Older workers tend to earn more, having worked their way up to higher salaries. If you eliminate rehires based on salary, you may be ruling out these older workers — leaving you open to an age-based discrimination claim.
When you’re making your layoff decisions, and again when you’re rehiring workers, aim to be as transparent as possible about the reasons for both actions.
Employees who are laid off without a real explanation for why they were chosen may harbor resentment toward your company, which can cause morale and trust problems when you bring them back.
When you make your layoffs, ensure that your workers understand what you’ll do about their positions if things change.
If you lead employees to believe their old positions will be waiting for them when business improves, you’re setting yourself up for problems.
Offer Alternate Positions If Necessary
Unless your business operates under a collective bargaining agreement or union pact, don’t be afraid to offer your laid-off workers alternate jobs within your company.
In some cases, your financial situation may force you to eliminate some positions or departments, and you may not be able to bring everyone back at their old pay scale.
If you have to rewrite job descriptions and compensation terms, make sure your workers fully understand them — and the reasons for the changes.
You should also interview laid-off workers for the jobs, so you can reassess their skills and expertise before hiring them back.
And, if your company is in a position to start rehiring, but can no longer offer full-time work to laid-off employees, consider offering part-time positions.
Many workers may decide part-time work is better than no work at all. Just be careful: Don’t promise that these part-time positions will turn into more hours or full-time salaries in the future if there’s no guarantee.
Re-hiring employees you laid off can be a little touchy, especially if word gets around the Internet that how you are doing it is being called into question. Not only can it cause issues with your staff, but your online reputation management could take a hit with customers too.
But if you have a solid plan in place and make sure your workers understand the process, you can make it as painless as possible for both them and yourself.
Photo credit: instanthrsolutions.com
About the Author: Freelance blogger Angie Mansfield covers a variety of subjects for small business owners. From business growth to marketing,Â her work will give you tips to keep your business running smoothly.