When it comes to layoffs and RIFs, communication is key. As an HR leader, you’re in charge of executing the event to the best of your ability, making sure that everyone that is impacted is alerted of the changes promptly and effectively to make the difficult business move easier to swallow. This is where a great layoff notice letter comes in.
A layoff notice letter is a document that you will send to your impacted staff members, alerting them that they are being let go. The letter should be well-crafted and packed with brief bits of information.
It’s important to note that layoff notice letters are highly customizable, meaning that you should adhere to your corporate culture to craft a letter that works for your organization. The samples here are meant to be used as a jumping off point, giving you a firm understanding of how a layoff notice letter should look before customizing it for your needs.
With that out of the way, let’s get into what you need to include in your layoff notification letter (also known as a layoff memo or, simply, a layoff letter).
Layoff Notice Letters: The Beginning
Like any letter, you need to start by addressing the person you are talking to. You’d never want to send a letter like this with a general salutation at the start, such as ‘Dear Whom It May Concern’ or ‘Dear Valued Employee’.
These do not work because you are announcing an event that will directly impact the person, meaning that you need to be personable in the letter. The good news is that many email clients allow you to use ‘merge tags’ to easily send personalized emails to many different people by filling in their name.
Obviously, if you are only sending it out to a few people, you will not need to worry about the merge tags, just fill in the employee’s name at the top like you would if you were sending any other letter.
While it may seem like an okay idea to beat around the bush and break the news lightly, it’s not. Nothing you can possible write in this letter is going to make the employee happier to receive it. So, start the letter quickly by saying what is going on.
Something like this:
"Dear [Employee Name],
For the last several months, [Organization Name] has experienced financial difficulties due to economic changes within our industry. In the past years we have taken action to adapt to this new market with new product & processes. Unfortunately, this action has not resulted in increased profitability.
Due to this climate, we have come to the decision to eliminate positions within the organization. It is with deepest regret that I must notify you of your position being eliminated from the organization."
As you can see, you start by addressing the person and then move right into letting them know what is going on in clear, concise speech. No need for flowery writing here. No need to mention the weather. You need to get to the point.
Also, don’t try to console your staff too much in this letter. Have an open door policy so that staff members can come and see you directly to discuss their stress.
Writing a Layoff Notice Letter: The Middle
Now that the newsy bit is out of the way and you have announced that there will be a layoff. You can spend a brief bit of time talking about the next steps involved.
For example, if you plan on having a member of HR meet with the person to discuss their severance, how their benefits will work, what outplacement options they have, and other things (like collecting their keys and things of that nature) you should mention it here.
This section of the letter can look something like this:
“Someone from Human Resources will call you to set up a meeting in the coming days to discuss this process and the overall implications. The HR representative will discuss with you your separation benefits. These benefits include the use of an outplacement service for assistance in finding a new position through resume writing and career counseling services. Please feel free to ask this HR representative any questions in relation to the position elimination.”
Remember, try to keep your layoff notice letter short. The person may have actually already started to skim because they may have not seen this move coming. A layoff is an extremely trying time for someone being let go. So make sure you stay on track and try to get the information across quickly.
You’ll have more time to explain everything in more detail in the layoff meeting, which you can learn more about here. Also, here’s a simple layoff script to help you navigate the meeting using best practices:
A Layoff Notice Letter: Wrapping It Up
This section of the letter is super short. Really, you just want to thank the employee for all they have done at the organization and then sign off.
Again, it’s important to stay on task here. Don’t go on and on after you have explained what needs explaining. You can simply end with a one sentence send off and then start to call those who are impacted by the event.
Here’s an example:
“We appreciate all of the good work you have done during your employment.
That should conclude your layoff notice letter. However, you also have to make sure you handle the event in a legal way, which means checking in with your legal team, especially when you are letting go a group or have staff members that are over the age of 40 years old. This should be done before, during, and after the layoff process.
The Final Say
When it comes to writing a layoff notice letter, you need to remember two things: one is to be extremely sympathetic to what your employee is going through. The second is to keep things short. Don’t try to console your employee in the letter, but have an open-door policy where they can come and chat.
Make sure you say what needs to be said. Could you imagine sending this letter and having the person not realize that they were being let go? That’d make for a weird conversation later.
Make sure you hit all of the major points: what’s happening, why it’s happening, say they are impacted, explain the next steps, close out. A layoff notice letter should just express the details of the reduction event and then set aside all of the other talk for the layoff meeting.
Want to learn more about layoff notice letters? Make sure you download our customizable sample here: