Critical Steps in COVID-19-Related Layoffs
By: Meredith Masse
In our May 2020 webinar Compassionate and Compliant Downsizing: Critical Steps in COVID-19-Related Layoffs, I was joined by employment attorney and friend Jessica Marinelli to highlight crucial ideas to consider if you are preparing for layoffs in your company as the ripple effect of the pandemic continues to make waves.
Why Compliant and Compassionate?
Why care about making downsizing efforts as compliant and compassionate as humanly possible? Here are just a few reasons:
- Reduce the potential for lawsuits after attending to all the important legal details up front.
- Sustain the morale of and demonstrate your commitment to remaining employees by showing them how you are caring for their former colleagues.
- Manage former employees’ perception of the company so they leave knowing you did your best to take care of them under exceedingly difficult circumstances.
- Maintain the organization’s reputation in the community it serves.
- Reduce unemployment costs from the long-term unemployed by helping them land in new jobs more quickly.
Understanding the “RIF” Process and Avoiding Pitfalls
Jessica stressed the importance of seeking support from your legal counsel to ensure nothing is missed when:
- Understanding the Reduction in Force (RIF) Process
- Identifying Business Reasons for the RIF
- Identifying and Applying Selection Criteria
- Scrubbing the Selection List for Compliance
- Implementing the RIF Plan
- Outlining Details of Severance and Releases
She shared specific tips for remaining compliant with WARN Act notices during the COVID crisis and helped participants understand importance of conducting an adverse impact statistical analysis with the support of counsel to ensure it remains confidential.
Compassionate Downsizing: Making the Toughest Part of Your Job a Little Easier
We continued the conversation to focus on the compassionate side of conducting layoffs with the employee at the heart of everything that needs to be done. I shared practical checklists for planning before notification day, considerations for the day of notifications and how to support remaining employees following notifications. As a highlight, one checklist for planning prior to the day of notifications:
- Prepare and review the separation documentation with attorney
- Establish a time/place for notification meetings; even virtual notifications need to be done face to face using Zoom and other meeting tools to maintain compassion for and dignity of impacted employees
- Support organization leaders in creating messaging for the business reasons for the terminations
- Train and script managers to deliver the notification news appropriately
- Select an outplacement partner by asking the questions you need to know to ensure your partner will reflect your company’s values and culture
- Determine outplacement program levels
- Include individualized outplacement services in severance package; do not tie employees’ ability to engage in outplacement to their signing the severance agreement whenever possible; allow them to get started moving forward immediately
- Consider whether family members work together and make appropriate plans for notification conversations
- Time the closing of access to security/computer systems carefully; you do not want someone to find out they are no longer under the company’s employ because their email was turned off
- Organize emergency procedures to ensure the safety of all employees
- Coordinate with your employee assistance program partners to be ready to support employees – both those impacted and those who remain – in the days that will follow notifications
- When back to on-site work, arrange transportation for those who need it
- Prepare a script with answers to anticipated questions for all managers and leaders
- Plan the return of company equipment/personal belongings taking into consideration individual employee’s needs
- Prepare for the impact on remaining employees and train managers and leaders on leading them effectively through change
We closed with checklists for the day of notifications and for supporting the employees who remain that the company is relying on the carry on.
For the complete webinar, you may download it here.
What is your company doing to ensure reductions are handled in ways that maintain compliance and compassion? We would love to hear your ideas in the comments below.