In continuation of our August blog on layoffs, this post will focus on some of the “do’s” and “don’ts” of conducting layoffs in your organization. While layoffs are fun for no one, a well-planned process can make the situation a little less painful for everyone involved. One of the first items that you will need to contemplate is whether or not to provide working notice, choose to provide pay in lieu of notice, or some combination of both. To recap from our last post, each jurisdiction will have minimum notice periods that need to be provided to the employee, based on years of experience. For example, in Saskatchewan, if an individual has been employed by the organization for 10 or more years, minimum notice is eight weeks. The circumstances may dictate whether you provide working notice or not. The benefit of working notice is that you actually receive productivity from the employee. However, this needs to be balanced against having a potentially upset or disgruntled employee in the workplace. An employee on working notice may attempt (directly or indirectly) to cause harm to the organization. For instance, if the employee is in a customer-facing role, they may take every opportunity that they can to tell clients about the layoff – and you can bet that this won’t paint your organization in a positive light. Although it costs some money with getting zero productivity in return, providing pay in lieu of notice alleviates the risk of this type of behaviour occurring.
Regardless of the reason for needing to let an employee go, handle the layoff in a sensitive and delicate manner. For example, only share the news of upcoming layoffs with those who absolutely need to know this information. Otherwise, there is the potential that this information could make it back to the person being laid off before the actual meeting occurs. Ensure that you conduct layoff meetings in a private location (ie. not the company coffee room) and be prepared for the emotions that may come from the person being laid off. As well, be firm in your decision – this is not a negotiation with the employee. Ideally, a layoff meeting will take place near the end of the work day. After the meeting, allow the individual to go home (even if they have been provided with working notice) as they will need time to digest the news. When possible, don’t hold layoff meetings on a Friday – if the individual is in need of any mental health resources following a layoff meeting, heading into the weekend is not going to help the employee in accessing these supports. Give the employee time to ask questions at the end of the meeting, and also make yourself available – whether in-person, online, or by phone – a day or two after the meeting. Once the employee has gotten over the initial news, they will likely have questions. As well, include as much information as possible in the layoff letter that you provide to the employee; for example, the date that they will receive their final pay cheque.
Layoffs are challenging for everyone involved, but the way in which the meeting is conducted can make a significant difference to the employee. As much as this will be a difficult time for the individual being laid off, they can look back at some point in the future and will be appreciative of the way that the process was conducted.