The United States saw nearly 20 million workers furloughed by July 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of companies made the difficult decision to temporarily let go of their employees, with the expectation that they would recall them once the budget allowed for it. For some companies, that time has come.

If you are tasked with recalling your furloughed team, there are a few things to consider along the way. Here are five tips to help you navigate this process.

1. Be Transparent

Your employees are likely nervous—their livelihoods are at stake, their career trajectories have been affected, and they aren’t sure where they stand. Bringing them into the conversation will help calm those worries and show them that you care about them on a human level. Let them know that they aren’t just numbers to you, and you will keep their best interests in mind while making decisions for the company whenever possible.

To be transparent, try frequently communicating with furloughed employees. Let them know where you are in the recalling process, as well as what they can expect moving forward when you do begin to bring employees back.

2. Treat Them Like New Employees

Recalling your previous employees sounds as simple as calling them to let them know they can return to work. It’s not quite that easy, however. They have spent weeks or months without work, and their lives have changed over that time. So, think of this process more like hiring a brand new employee.

In this case, you will send them an offer letter like you would any new employee and conduct an onboarding process. Communicate details, such as the job’s description, date of return, terms of employment, and benefits. It’s also important to convey what has changed and what has stayed the same since they were furloughed—new safety procedures, changes in their position, new operations, etc. Overall, ensure that your employees have any training or support that they will need to complete their job successfully.

Though you can’t know every question an employee may ask, put yourself in their shoes and think about what they might need to know: How does the furlough affect their seniority? Will their hours be reduced? Does this affect annual bonuses and other employee incentives? Try to give them as much information as you possibly can to prevent worry or wonder.

3. Have a Plan B

Consider that some of your employees may choose to decline your offer to come back. If they do decline, be sensitive and empathetic in your conversation as you wish them well. It is likely that even if an employee is leaving your company permanently, they will have further questions for you or your HR department. Direct them to the appropriate contact person to answer their questions and guide them through the process of terminating their relationship with your company.

It is also prudent to plan a hiring strategy beforehand. If you do not have enough employees returning from furlough to fill your open positions, you will want to be prepared to act as quickly as possible.

4. Be Aware of Discrimination

If you plan to recall your workforce in multiple waves, carefully document how you will choose which employees to recall first. You may choose based on elements such as seniority, departmental needs, and performance. Note that you cannot determine which employees to contact based on their risks for COVID-19. For example, excluding those who are pregnant, immunocompromised, or elderly could result in discrimination claims. For more information, review the Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

5. Be Supportive and Reassuring

More than anything, remember that this process has been difficult for everyone. Promote an open-door policy among your employees. They need all the support they can get as they transition back to work and adapt to a new normal.

Contact us today to learn how LBMC Employment Partners can help you manage your HR tasks to take the stress out of your workday and increase your employees’ satisfaction.