As we enter these final months of 2020, many employers are eager to get their operations back to ‘normal’ and prepare for a fresh start in the new year. That includes bringing certain employees who were furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic back. There’s concern, however, about who should return first and what the best way to recall them is.
Recalling furloughed employees requires careful planning in order to avoid legal hazards and HR conflicts within your business. As you determine who will return to work, it’s important that you evaluate your return-to-work policies, ensure all pre-established handbook policies are being followed, and uphold anti-discrimination laws.
Let’s discuss the process of deciding who to bring back from furlough and how to compliantly re-establish your operation in the months ahead.
Selecting Who Returns to Work
You should expect to follow your existing recall policies/methods, such as a seniority system, when determining who to recall first. If your business is subject to a collective bargaining agreement, you will likely already have a policy that contains these sorts of layoff and recall provisions. That said, it is critical that you also abide by any implications made to employees, either verbal or written, on the subject.
Your priority is to avoid the perception of discriminatory decision-making or wrongful termination in your business’s rehiring decisions. While it makes sense to want to re-hire employees based on something like employee performance, that method of decision-making is fundamentally subjective and can lead to legal risks. Sticking to established policies is the best way to guard against legal pitfalls.
Therefore, consider deciding who to re-hire based on documented performance reviews or numerical data related to those reviews to justify your rehiring assessments and avoid discrimination claims. Do not conduct reviews for the sake of deciding who to recall. Use those that already took place in the course of regular operations.
Note: This isn’t the only way to decide who should come back. It may also be prudent to adopt a recall policy based on operational evaluations. This allows you to focus on the essential needs of your business and rehire furloughed employees based on the needs of individual worksites, role distribution, and more. If this is the case, it should be well-documented and included in your handbook.
Recall Letters for Furloughed Employees
It is vital that you tell your workers as soon as possible whether or not they are being recalled, even if a recall date has not been set. It’s recommended that your recall letter provides at least a week's notice and have a date by which the employee must respond to the employer regarding their intention to return to work. While there’s no legal parameter for when to send recall letters or what to include within them, the sooner furloughed workers can be informed the better.
In addition to confirming furloughed workers’ at-will status, make sure your recall letter offers an update on the COVID-related changes to your facilities and the terms for individuals to return to work. Here are some of the items that should be on your recall letter checklist:
- The expected return-to-work date and the time and location where the employee should report. (Consider including the employee's seniority date for leave and benefit accrual.)
- The position in which the employee will return, including their title after recall and immediate supervisor.
- The employee's exemption status and subsequent benefits.
- For nonexempt employees, their expected work hours or schedule.
- The employee's pay rate or salary and the timing of payment.
- Eligibility for vacation and vacation accrual policy.
- Any remaining bank of accrued time off.
Furloughed Workers: Simplify Your Re-Hiring Workflow
Go green and get rid of your rehire paperwork. After submitting the quick and easy rehire form, your rehires can go through onboarding electronically with the click of a button.
Instead of doing the same new hire process, rehires now can go through onboarding electronically without re-entry of information on the employer’s part. New forms are generated for the employee and get processed automatically.
Learn more about how our onboarding solution can simplify more of your workflows and get demo today!