Public Sector HR Best Practices to Ensure Compliance During Layoffs

As the economy continues to decline, the number of layoffs on the horizon is only posed to grow. And no organization is exempt from the possibility of layoffs. Although the public sector is more secure, job layoffs also affect government agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health organizations.

Telling an employee that their position is being eliminated is probably one of the most difficult challenges HR professionals and supervisors will face. But leading in uncertain times means public sector organizations must develop a plan in case layoffs become necessary. Here’s what you need to know to ensure compliance for layoffs in 2023 and ensure layoffs are conducted with as much care and compassion as possible.

Why Compliance Matters During Public Sector Layoffs

It's critical for HR professionals and supervisors to know the state and federal regulations associated with layoffs, like the WARN Act (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification). This federal law must be followed by organizations with 100 or more full-time employees that plan on laying off 50 or more people. The law requires organizations to provide a 60-day written notice of those mass layoffs in advance. Since worker-related regulations and rules constantly change, it’s important to stay up-to-date to remain compliant.  Subscribe to resources and review government websites that cover employee regulation law regularly.

How to Minimize the Impact of Layoffs on Affected Employees

For businesses, laying off personnel is often necessary for survival. But for employees, layoffs are personal and painful. That's why the entire layoff process should be as transparent and as empathetic as possible for affected workers.

In fact, conducting layoffs the right way minimizes the impact on the employees laid off as well as the remaining staff members. A 2012 study from the University of Texas Arlington analyzing 20 organizations that had gone through layoffs found that the majority of the organizations suffered declines in profitability for months or even years after the staff cuts. And researchers at the University of Tennessee, Baylor University and Auburn University discovered that organizations laying off employees are twice as likely to file for bankruptcy.

Learning how to lay off an employee gracefully while following compliance can reduce the negative impact of layoffs for everyone involved. Graceful layoffs can also help public sector organizations weather the economic downturn better.

Tips and Best Practices for Ensuring Compliance and Minimizing the Effect on Employees During Layoffs

Here are some tips and best practices for ensuring you remain compliant and help employees being laid off the best you can.

1. Stay Up-To-Date and Comply With Employee Layoff Regulations

Be sure to follow all layoff regulations, as this will also help you find the best way to let employees go. When planning layoffs, consider the following:

  • How many workers will be affected?
  • How will your organization provide WARN notifications?
  • When will the agency deliver the news?
  • Will you tell all employees at once or do it in phases?
  • How will the organization deal with situations where supervisors and managers delivering the news will also be impacted?

Also, consider creating and using a layoff preparation checklist to ensure you don’t miss any important steps in complying with regulations.

2. Create a Communications Plan

A communications plan helps you determine how you will notify employees and what you will say. The Harvard Business Review states that compassionate layoffs consider these three essential elements:

  • Key messages: Be ready to share future organizational positioning and what actions are being taken.
  • Rationale: Transparency is key, so employees deserve an honest and clear explanation as to why the layoffs are happening.
  • Audiences involved: Take into consideration the employees involved and make sure messages to everyone are consistent, including the media, other organizations involved and workers.

3. Tell Employees Face-to-Face

Both the employees being laid off and the remaining workers deserve to be told about the layoffs face-to-face, whether that's in the office or through a video call in the case of remote workplaces. These are not the types of messages to relay via email. Furthermore, workers being laid off should be told privately by supervisors or managers. This provides employees receiving the bad news a sense of dignity and gives them time to process the news and ask questions as needed.

Key Takeaways

In general, organizational layoffs require compliance, compassion and communication. Clear communication keeps employees informed. Compliance ensures your organization is following laws and regulations. And compassion ensures affected employees are supported through the termination and remaining workers have their concerns and feelings validated.

To support workers being laid off in 2023, a growing number of organizations are offering severance pay, continued health insurance and assistance in transitioning. Being an employer of choice means putting your employees first. When it comes to challenging situations like layoffs, approach them in a way that everyone involved is treated with dignity and respect.

If you need more assistance managing human resources challenges at your organization, CPS HR has training and resources to help.

As the recession continues, public sector layoffs will likely occur. Read this post to learn the best way to lay off an employee and remain compliant.
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