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Rehiring Laid-off Employees During COVID-19

Rehiring Laid-off Employees During COVID-19

The devastating and lingering impact of the coronavirus indicates that a full reopening of the economy may be further away than most hope. But for employers looking to staff up after early COVID-19 layoffs, find out what you need to know when rehiring previously employed and furloughed workers.

 

Layoffs vs. Furloughs: What’s the Difference?

When the coronavirus outbreak spread across the country, employers were forced to shut down or completely rework their business models. The result? Mass layoffs and furloughs, totaling one of the worst unemployment rates in American history. 

Employers typically use furloughs to retain staff that they can’t afford but don’t want to layoff, and there are certain legal requirements for each. For a more expansive understanding of the four key differences between a furlough and a layoff, consult the following blog.

 

What Documentation is Necessary for Rehiring Laid-off Employees?

For employers who have seen an uptick in business, bringing back furloughed workers is relatively seamless because they’re still employees. Yet for rehiring layoffs, HR administrators need to take the following steps:

  1. Report to State Unemployment Agency: The National Law Review points out that every state requires “employers to report new hires and re-hires.” Just because someone previously worked for you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t report their rehire. 
  2. W-4 and Other Tax Documents: Job listing company Indeed recommends that rehired employees resubmit W-4s and other tax documents, in case any of the information has changed. 
  3. Form I-9: A laid-off employee’s existing Form I-9 can be used upon rehire, as long as they’re rehired within three years of the date they first joined the organization.

The same National Law Review article warns that employers should be cautious about who and why they select to recall and rehire. There could be challenging legal implications at play, especially if a former employee isn’t brought back and suspects that the decision might have something to do with their protected class status, which can “bring a disparate treatment claim.” 

The author suggests that to avoid this potentially damaging litigation—and avoid infringing on your workers’ rights—develop a written reopening plan that determines the most valuable skills needed to be successful. Be as specific as possible, and include detailed reasoning for your actions. An article in SHRM also backs up this approach. 

 

How to Communicate a Rehire Offer

Honesty and transparency go a long way in building and maintaining trust with employees. A rehire offer is no different.

In your rehire communication, outline the following talking points:

  • Acknowledge the original decision to let them go 
  • Why and how their position is being reestablished
  • Salary offer, title, exemption status, and manager, as well as benefits details 
  • Other terms of employment 
  • Planned start date and date offer acceptance needed 
  • An overview of safety measures in place

Download a rehire letter template here

 

What About Onboarding Rehired Teammates?

Your organization may look very different from when your employee was originally hired. While they might be familiar with the ins and outs of company culture and their role, dedicate time to instructing rehires about the new processes that have been implemented since their departure. 

If your employee accepts a rehire offer, consider covering the following topics during their onboarding:

  1. New Technology Processes: There’s a chance your company is still operating in a remote-work capacity. Bring teammates up to speed on work-from-home policies, best practices, and technology they’ll use during their daily routines.
  2. Safety Measures in Place: If you’re back in the office, let them know what steps you’ve implemented to keep workers safe during the pandemic. You may even want to share your return-to-work letter with them so they’re on the same page. (See the following template for reference.)
  3. What to Do if a Teammate Tests Positive for COVID-19: This may be covered when you discuss safety measures, but it deserves repeating: let rehires know your organization’s plan if someone in the office tests positive.

 

What are the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Implications?

Businesses that applied for relief funding using the PPP must adhere to certain criteria for these loans to be partially or completely forgiven. In updates that were instituted in the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (PPPFA), the following staffing requirements were included:

  1. Rehire Deadline Pushed Back: Given the ongoing nature of the pandemic—and subsequent efforts to reopen businesses amid changing municipal safety guidelines—employers have until December 31 to rehire workers back to pre-COVID-19 levels. The previous deadline was June 30. If this provision is met, the loan can be fully forgiven.
  2. Rehire Requirements Eased: Employers can qualify for loan forgiveness with the following exceptions in place: If an employee rejects a rehire offer,* if the business is unable to return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity needed to rehire staff, and if the business cannot find qualified employees to hire. PPPFA indicates Feb. 15, 2020, as the date of regular business operations.

*Note: According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), if an employee refuses your rehire or return-to-work offer, you can still qualify for loan forgiveness so long as your organization “made a good faith, written offer of rehire, and the employee’s rejection of that offer must be documented by the borrower.”

COVID-19 Return to Work Readiness Checklist

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