The harsh effects of the coronavirus epidemic have forced many businesses to make tough decisions about downsizing, leading to an increase in unemployment. Though reductions in force (RIF) are never easy, more might still be needed for some companies to succeed through resuming work after the pandemic, despite the challenging economic times.
Businesses must also understand how to proceed with RIFs in the smartest and most delicate style possible, given their sensitive nature on legalities. A RIF has several steps to the process. These steps include determining the need to reduce staff and deciding whether the approach will be centralized or decentralized. Then, HR must look into the practice, considering whether layoffs will result in unlawful discrimination, and relaying the results.
There are also other things to factor in between tasks, such as who are the employees you will bring back first and what departments and levels will be part of RIF. Continue reading to learn more about these procedures in-between the whole RIF process.
Determine the scale of reductions
As an employer, going through the RIF process for either your furloughed or skeleton staff is hard to face. The decision becomes even harder when you determine the RIF scope and extent, which may include reductions of a certain seniority level, a specific branch location, or even a whole department.
Documentation is vital during this sensitive period. This will protect the company's decision from being construed as discriminatory based on age, gender, and many other factors. It is a good idea to make a chart that contains positions rather than names on it.
Key decision-makers should avoid looking to and discussing specific individuals during these discussions. The only exception is when specific performance issues come up.
Human resources (HR) should also have all organizational charts. If RIF is not centralized, each decision-maker should look at charts to review only those roles in their specific areas.
Decide which positions to eliminate
In each group of affected employees, key decision-makers will need to decide which groups to retain, combine, or eliminate. From there, they must document the reasons for eliminations.
It is not acceptable to state that an employee's position merely holds no value anymore. Instead, it would help if you dig deep. Could money be saved if you outsourced the job elsewhere? Are the job responsibilities less necessary from one employee in one position? Make sure to state your case accurately.
You will also need to address seniority and performance issues if there are multiple incumbents in the same position.
Follow guidelines for multiple incumbents
When various people hold the same position, decision-makers face a tough time deciding who must go. There is always a risk that former-employees-turned-plaintiffs could later recount that the criteria used to lay them off were selective to generate the desired outcome.
Therefore, there must be legitimate, documented, and compelling criteria for each group of employees. HR always plays a critical role in this, whether the RIF is centralized or decentralized.
While performance is always the best measure of deciding who will stay, these evaluations can even be tagged as subjective. Some employers sometimes use a blend of seniority and skillset to find the most even and balanced mix of criteria. It can be noted that under many contracts, rank plays a critical role many times.
Think about 'bumping rights'
Many union contracts provide "bumping rights." This is when workers with more seniority can replace junior workers. While this practice is not generally available to nonunion employees, it can be a good practice in tough times.
For instance, if someone without much experience is let go and a more senior employee with more knowledge is willing to do that job with lesser pay, then you get to keep that senior employee.
End the relationship respectfully
The most critical step employers can take to ward off liability is to treat former employees with respect and dignity. In the end, people will remember how you made them feel. They will forget what you said. Kindness and compassion will get everyone through this challenging period.
At Infinity Consulting Solutions (ICS), our goal is to help you find peace of mind as you go back to work after COVID-19's wave of challenges. Contact us today to learn more about our consulting services.