Return to Work Letters for Furloughed Employees

Posted by: Astrid Servin, HR Director on Thursday, June 4, 2020

Your verbal and written communication during the furlough period has kept you and your employees connected. Now that you are recalling employees, ensure that you don't miss any critical steps for their transition back to work. Your documentation and clear communication will minimize anxiety and provide a positive back to work experience!

Remember, furloughed employees are active employees, still employed by your company, who have had their hours reduced or may have even been on unpaid status for the last several weeks or months. Every company has unique conditions and restrictions, specific to their industry and business. As such, it's important to ensure your communication is customized and familiar to your employees.

Consider the following elements when drafting a recall letter:

Employment Details

The recall letter should have a positive tone welcoming the employee, similar to a job offer letter — especially if any information has changed!

Items to include in the recall letter include:

  • Return to work date
  • Expected work hours and time to report on the first day back
  • Job title
  • Supervisor
  • Overview of responsibilities
  • Employment classification (exempt/nonexempt; part-time/full-time; etc.)
  • Salary or wage information/change
  • Employment at-will statement

Outline Any Workplace Changes

It is important to communicate any changes that may have occurred at your company since the employee was furloughed. If no changes have occurred, note that as well.

Examples might include:

  • Job or department location changes (workstation changes, work from home, etc.)
  • Company hours of operation
  • Staggered shifts
  • Policy changes for meetings, peer communication, travel, benefits
  • Staff/management updates
  • Company focus
  • Changes to customer interactions (if applicable)

Mandatory Safety Precautions

Some of your employees may have concerns about returning to work, especially during a pandemic. Now more than ever, discussing and providing safety training is not only a good idea but also a requirement from the CDC. Many local ordinances will require additional safety precautions. Companies should check county guidelines as well as industry guidelines for specific requirements.

General safety rules to implement and communicate include:

  • Designation of a resource person if employees have a need for accommodations (assistance) in returning to work
  • Identifying a Crisis Management Team or Safety Officer to whom safety concerns can be addressed
  • Informing employees of additional training they will receive regarding reducing the spread of COVID-19
  • Documenting the safety measures being taken by the company on an ongoing basis to ensure that employees are returning to a safe work environment
  • Explaining company policies and procedures related to illness, cleaning and disinfecting
  • Following CDC recommendations for all employees who are ill or have come in contact with someone who is ill — be sure to follow applicable privacy rules
  • Documenting procedures employees may need to do differently to ensure their safety, such as:
    • Additional cleaning routines
    • Face masks/coverings required or recommended?
    • Will the company provide them or must employees bring their own?
    • Will protective items and hand sanitizer be provided?
    • Will you be taking employees' temperatures/testing each day when they arrive?

Employee's Responsibility

Allow a reasonable amount of time for employees to respond to your letter, but note that employees must respond to you by a specific date. Include a statement about what will happen if they do not respond by the deadline. Indicate a contact person to call in case there are questions.

Finally, include an acknowledgment statement with a signature.

  • Example: We will expect you to return on ______. If you do not contact us before that date, or if you do not show up ready to work at your assigned time, we will assume you have voluntarily resigned as of the close of that business day.
  • Ask the employee to officially accept or decline the offer to return to work. If declining the offer, include space for decline reason.
  • If you receive a verbal response from the employee, note the date and time of that conversation on your copy of the letter.

Let CEA Help!

Use CEA's Returning to Work, COVID-19 Tool Kit which includes a reinstatement letter, checklists, policies, and required posters. This tool kit is free to members (log in to HR Answers) and can be purchased from the CEA Store for $79!

If you need assistance with your return to work plan, reach out to CEA for HR Director consulting services.


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