The Right Way to Lay Off Employees

By Karyn Rhodes, VP/Director, Complete HR Solutions
 While we may be in the midst of record-low unemployment, there are times employers still need to lay off employees. And the practice is never easy. But it’s important to get it right since an ill-handled situation can impact trust and morale among remaining employees – or worse.
To lay off employees “right,” here are five steps to take.

  1. Make a plan. When it comes to layoffs, the devil is in the details. That’s why it’s important to determine ahead of time where and when the layoffs will take place, who will handle the task, the message you’ll share, and any severance or resources you’ll provide.
  2. Communicate with Compassion. Layoff discussions are inherently challenging. One way to ease the conversations is to show your employees respect. Empathize about the difficulty of the situation and make sure they understand the decision wasn’t their fault. And remember that one of the most important things you can do is listen.
  3. Be Honest. If possible, explain the factors that contributed to the layoffs such as technology, new competition, or changes in the market. This straightforward approach will help employees understand the situation better so they’re less likely to question what they could have done differently.
  4. Offer Support. Employers often provide laid-off employees outplacement services to help them transition and search for new opportunities. Depending on your budget, these can be comprehensive or just specific services like bio writing or access to a paid job search service for a period of time.
  5. Prepare Paperwork. When you announce layoffs, be sure you plan for things like delivery of the final paycheck, unused vacation time, and benefit information like COBRA paperwork. Staying organized with these details will help the transition go more smoothly for the employee and reduce your risk of liability.