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by Mary Coughlin
on April 14, 2020

Furloughs: How to Explain Employment Changes to Your Employees

Over the last few weeks, non-essential and essential businesses alike have been hit with massive changes impacting their workforces. Many non-essential businesses have had to lay off or furlough the majority of their employees due to a complete shutdown of operations, and even essential businesses, like restaurants, have had vastly different employment needs. 
Employee FAQs: 11 Must-Answer Questions During Organizational Change  Get the PDF

Furlough” can be a confusing term for a lot of people. Does it mean I’ve been laid off? Will I still have a job when conditions stabilize? What about my benefits? Can I collect unemployment? It’s important to communicate with your impacted employees in a way that clearly explains their employment status and where they can go for assistance following a furlough. The most important thing to remember is that your employees are having a lot thrown at them during this crisis. Many will be scared to come to work or worried about their future, so it is absolutely essential that you convey empathy.

FREE TEMPLATE: Employee Furlough Letter & FAQs

Consider preparing for various scenarios—as we are learning, times of crisis are very fluid and regulations can change daily. Take a look at the below, including some of our free examples, as you build out your crisis communications strategy. 

Disclaimer: we cannot speak to legal and HR implications regarding the changes in your workforce. We encourage you to review employment resources developed by experts in the wake of this crisis. TriNet, an HR solutions company, developed a helpful video on the difference between furloughs, layoffs and terminations, and what your options are under the CARES Act. 

EXAMPLE: Furlough Communications

Some communications you should consider preparing, in case you find yourself in a situation where furloughs are necessary:
  • Employee furlough letter: spell out for employees what a furlough is, whether or not you intend to bring them back onto your payroll when possible, refer to frequently asked questions, and direct them to your state’s unemployment resources 
  • Employee FAQs: include in the above communication as a quick reference to the questions that many employees will have

EXAMPLE: Essential Worker Communications

You may be in a state or city where a shelter in place (or stay at home) order has been given, yet you have been designated an essential business and still have some employees coming into work. While some orders are being enforced more strictly than others, you may need an essential worker letter for your employees to carry with them, in the event that they are stopped by law enforcement and asked to produce proof of employment with an essential business. If this sounds like your business, consider having the following communications drafted:
  • Employee update: notify the employee that your company was designated as an essential business and that they are maintaining their employment with your company; include details about how you will keep them safe and healthy while they are working
  • Essential worker letter: include in the above update and request all employees carry with them when traveling to and from work
  • Employee FAQ: consider answering questions about the change in your operations, or anything that may be different from normal including schedules, pay, hours of operation or general expectations about coming to work

All of this may seem confusing, but with a solid understanding of how to build a crisis communications plan for different scenarios, you will be able to clearly articulate to your employees their employment status in the most empathetic way possible. We’d be happy to have a discussion with you about how to get started—contact us if you need help.