With the economy at an all-time high in the past year, businesses have been reaping the benefits of growth and advancement in all aspects of their organization, including staff acquisition and retention. Now that a pandemic has hit the globe, businesses are having to adapt as consumers are shut away in their homes and the economy plummets. For some of us, that means temporarily furloughing employees and for others, a layoff of many employees. If you are a business leader, you know that there are best practices to ensure this process for both you and your terminated employee goes as well as it can. But how do you honor those practices in a time of social-distancing and remote working? “During this time many organizations are having to downsize.  Face to face interaction is likely not possible, so employers are reminded to handle the separation in the most professional manner possible. Good employee relations practice recommends a personal phone call.  It is not recommended that email be utilized for termination. If the person is being laid off or furloughed for a temporary period of time and where large numbers of employees are affected, email is acceptable,” stated Mary E. Corrado, ASE President and CEO.  “Employers should also be prepared to educate employees on the various unemployment and leave options available to them.”

Here are some tips we’ve compiled to help you navigate the remote termination process:

  1. Show Empathy and Compassion

This is an unprecedented time for everyone and being laid off on top of all the other restrictions and uncertainty in place can make someone feel hopeless. Always remember the repercussions for your employees and make sure that your decision for layoffs or furlough is your best option. If a layoff or furlough is the right path, be sure to put respect and care for the employee at the top of the list.

2. Know Your Options

Some different options include temporary paid leave (tax credits available), unpaid leave, or full termination. There are quite a few programs passed into law that help employees and employers, so be sure to keep yourself informed and in compliance so you can take full advantage of the programs.

3. Go Virtual

Video is becoming more and more common during these Stay at Home Orders, and without face-to-face communication available, this is your next best option for communicating this difficult message. Avoiding written communications in this case is best, especially for individual layoffs. Try a free tool like Zoom if you don’t have something like Microsoft Teams in place.

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4. Leverage Electronic Signature Tools

No matter which option you choose, there will be necessary paperwork for both you and your terminated employee to complete. Utilize something like DocuSign, which is only $15 a month, to enable the sending, receiving, and signing of secure documents.

5. Don’t Forget to Collect Company Equipment

Have a plan for how equipment will be returned (laptop, keys, etc.) as well as a plan for pick-up of personal items likely left back at the office. Depending on your situation, you may be able to coordinate an exchange at the office. If that is not available, shipping of personnel effects and company equipment may have to be coordinated.

This is undoubtedly a stressful and disappointing time for you as a business leader. We’re all feeling the effects of this pandemic, and while right now things may seem dire, we’re optimistic that businesses can get up and running at full capacity when it is safe to do so. If you do have to make adjustments to your staff, we hope that the tips above will help you feel confident in navigating this process remotely.

As an additional resource, check out ASE’s checklist, Planning and Managing Employee Separations