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transitioning from furloughs to layoffs

At the start of May of this year, 36 paraprofessionals in the Bennington School District in Vermont were let go as part of a reduction in force in response to the financial difficulties brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, 11 school bus drivers were furloughed and told that they will be called back once school buildings are back open for students. Will a reduction of force happen to these workers if the shutdowns continue over the summer? Will this employer, like many others, be faced with transitioning from furloughs to layoffs if the pandemic rages on for months to come? Only time will tell.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many organizations to resort to furloughs and layoffs in order to weather the economic storm the virus has thrust upon us. As shutdowns and restrictions continue across the country in order to “flatten the curve,” many employers will unfortunately have to make further difficult decisions. While we have never experienced a pandemic of this magnitude in modern times, it has been my experience that extended disruptions in business functions inevitably mean that many furloughs will turn into reductions in workforce. These create tough situations for employees, and providing them proper support is important for their well-being. Believe it or not, it is also important for your company’s own long-term success and reputation.

Is your business prepared for this kind of workforce transition?

What Is the Difference Between a Furlough and a Layoff?

The words “furlough” and “layoff” are loaded to begin with. According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), things can get confusing when the terms are mistakenly used interchangeably. They really are two distinctly different actions. They are differentiated as follows:

  • Layoffs: These are permanent separations from payroll. You may also hear the terms “reduction in force” or “RIF” used as well. Individuals that are effected by this action maybe recalled at a future date but their continuation of benefits and ties to the company often end at the time of notification. Individuals could be eligible for unemployment compensation, and if they had company-provided medical coverage, they would have the option to select COBRA for the continuation of that coverage.
  • Furloughs: These are temporary separations from payroll that occur because there is not enough work for employees to perform for a specific time period. The employer intends to recall their employees back, when work becomes available. Workers typically can collect unemployment benefits during a furlough, and employers often allow employees to maintain benefit coverage for a defined period to give them an incentive to remain available for recall. 

Outplacement: Real Help for Displaced Employees Transitioning from Furloughs to Layoffs

A furlough can, unfortunately, turn into a layoff. As I mentioned earlier, I suspect that we are going to see more of this happening in the coming weeks and months. When an employee is laid off or “riffed,” it’s a permanent thing, and they will need to find a new job. Outplacement provides transitional support for these kinds of displaced workers. It’s a wise investment for employers, even during the widespread downsizing caused by the pandemic.

Outplacement services help displaced employees who are experiencing stress and frustration by giving them assistance so that they can transition to new employment. When you provide outplacement services, you send a clear signal that you care about your workforce, even when you need to terminate positions. It shows a good faith effort to help them. For the workers who remain, seeing outplacement being offered to those who are let go can boost morale and employee satisfaction. During this extremely tense coronavirus pandemic, positive outplacement programs can also help your company’s reputation, as well as better position your employer brand for a later time, when you will be hiring again.

Virtual Outplacement Is Practical and Effective

Providing outplacement assistance during the coronavirus pandemic requires adherence to local, state and federal social-distancing requirements and other virus-prevention measures. Services, like RAI’s Virtual Outplacement, offer a practical and effective way to assist displaced employees. Traditional outplacement commonly involves services that include in-person group settings; virtual outsourcing delivers those same resources via video conferencing and/or phone consultations.

Remote and on-site outplacement services can be combined into hybrid programs as well. This can be the best solution for a company, from a cost and content standpoint.

While every situation is different, some of the more common outplacement service offerings include:

  • Career self assessments
  • Job search tools
  • Career research assistance
  • Transition management
  • Communication strategies
  • Resume preparation
  • Career coaching and advising
  • Interview preparation
  • Negotiations preparation
  • Social media profile assistance
  • Value proposition creation

At RAI Resources, we deliver exceptional outplacement services that are tailored to meet each client’s unique needs, no matter what phase of downsizing they may be experiencing. Contact us today to discuss your company’s situation, and to find out more about how we can help.