Keeping Employees: Alternatives to Laying Off Workers

by J.B. Maverick

2 min read

Letting go of workers is hard, no matter what the reason. When you’re faced with the possibility of needing to lay off hard-working, loyal employees, the task becomes even more difficult. This unfortunate task can’t always be avoided, but there are a number of positive alternatives for you to explore before letting a valued employee walk out the door.

Temporary Layoff

If your business has been sluggish, or if your supply is higher than your demand, revenue can drag and you might be considering letting go of employees to balance things out. Instead, consider a temporary layoff. This is simply a period of time where you reduce or completely stop the number of hours an employee works without terminating the employee. You should consult each employee’s contract to ensure you’re within your legal rights to temporarily lay them off. According to the Employment Standards Act, a temporary layoff can’t last more than 13 weeks within a period of 20 consecutive weeks. If you choose this route, be sure you’re keeping track of any employees that have been temporarily laid off. Failure to do so could result in the employee being permanently fired.

Consultations, Reprimands, and Written Documentation

You may be looking to lay off a worker that isn’t pulling their weight, is failing to operate as instructed, or is in some way bringing your company down. Laying off a full-fledged employee isn’t always worth the risk, even if you’ve seen negative impacts to your company based on their performance. Before laying the employee off, have a conversation with them. Openly discuss your concerns, and allow the employee to do the same. The employee may not know they’re doing something wrong, or they may have issues in their personal life that are distracting them. Make sure the employee knows exactly what they’re doing incorrectly and the appropriate way to fix it. If the behaviour continues, verbal reprimands and written reprimands on their record are good follow-ups before permanently laying the employee off. The goal is to give the employee an opportunity to amend their behaviour and to get up to speed with the operating expectations you’ve set.

Change of Position

The Peter principle suggests that an employee will move up the position ladder in a company until they reach a position that they fail to thrive in because it’s beyond their skill capacity. If you have an employee that has been a dedicated and hard-working individual but now seems to be struggling or failing, it could be because of the role they’re currently serving in. Consider the employee’s past performance, and areas that they’ve done well in within your company. Instead of laying this employee off, consider redeploying them. This alternative could involve a little bit of juggling if new employees have been hired or if another employee is unwilling to change their position. This option may require some strategic repositioning, but if you’re otherwise satisfied with the employee, then it’s worth the extra work to keep the employee on board as part of your team. There are a variety of alternatives to consider before laying off any member of your staff. Think through your possible choices before making a decision.

References & Resources

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