Layoffs are, on paper, a temporary reduction in force that is meant to help businesses get back on track. After they do, those laid off are offered new roles at the organization (if there are any). If they don't, those let go become permanent reductions. In order to understand how to recall workers and find them a new job, though, you need to have a layoff referral deadline on the books.
So what is a layoff referral deadline? What does that actually mean, and how can you use them to help recall workers and pick which ones become permanent?
Let's dig in.
What Is a Layoff Referral Deadline?
While the actual definition of what a layoff referral deadline is can differ greatly between organizations with some using the term to describe how union workers find new jobs, what we are talking about involves how workers are recalled during a layoff.
As we mentioned above, a layoff is temporary - at least on paper. So, in order for that to work, you need to have a way for those let go to find new jobs inside the organization during the layoff.
For example, if a worker is laid off and put on the recall list (which you can learn all about here), they are also on the referral list, which is a list of employees that can fit into other roles inside the organization.
So, say Jim, a worker at a tech company, is let go during a layoff. However, the organization needs to hire someone in a different department. If Jim has the skills to fill that role, he will go to the top of the list instead of an outside candidate.
Without a layoff referral list, you may miss out on hiring back those workers that can fulfill those roles and already know how your business operates, allowing you to forego a lot of the training that comes with new hires.
Pretty simple, right?
Using a Layoff Referral Deadline
During the layoff process, your recall list will only exist for a specific period of time.
When you lay someone off, you need to be clear how the recall policy works. Let's use another example.
Say you are the HR manager that has to let Jim go at the tech company. You need to explain to him that he will remain on the recall list for X amount of days (usually one to two months). After that period of time, the layoff will become permanent, turning a temporary event into a actual RIF.
This is the same for the layoff referral list. You need to have a layoff referral deadline that alerts your internal teams that there are candidates for positions that are preferential to other applicants.
Layoff Referral Deadline: How Long Should It Be?
There are no real, firm set of rules on how long your layoff referral deadline should be. Using the same length as your recall policy is is a great thing to use as a benchmark.
For example, if your recall list stays active for two months after the event, you may want to have your layoff referral deadline extend that that date as well. You can also have your referral list extend beyond the recall deadline if you still want to offer those staffers new roles.
Now, it's important to understand that your workers will likely find new roles elsewhere unless you recall them or refer them to a new role at your organization in a rather short amount of time.
Layoff Referral Deadline: Communication Is Key
Like any HR policy, you need to pay special attention to how you communicate the deadline to your staffers - both those who you let go and also those who you've retained.
For those being let go, explain to them in the layoff meeting or layoff memo that they will be added to the layoff referral list, allowing them to potentially land a new role if the company is hiring for a key position.
They may have questions about this. For example, why would the company be hiring if they are also holding a layoff event? That doesn't make sense, right?
You have to explain to the worker that, even though there was a downsizing event, the company still needs talent to get the financials back on track, meaning that a new hire might have to be onboarded even during a layoff.
The point here is that people will have questions and, after the initial announcement, you need to make sure to have a plan in place to answer them.
For those who have been retained, you need to make sure that you keep them in the know about who is still on the layoff referral list and how to contact them if a new role opens up.
You also need to keep them informed as to who has left the list and when the list is invalid. Usually, HR departments tell laid off staffers that they should contact them if they land a new role so that they can take them off the recall/referral list. That being said, you can't make your ex-workers contact you so the list is really hard to keep updated.
Still, try your best to keep everyone informed so you can use your layoff referral list to the best of your organization's ability.
Layoff Referral Deadline: The Takeaway
In the end, a layoff referral deadline is when your referral list is rendered a permanent reduction. Just like with the recall list, which - in many ways - can be used as a synonym, you need to set a date for a temporary event to turn in a permanent RIF.
Keep your referral list updated to the best of your ability so that your staff members know who they can reach out to if a position opens up.
To do this, you need to ensure a proper line of communication with both those who were let go and those who were retained to make sure everyone is on the same page.
If you properly plan your layoff, your layoff referral deadline will line up with your recall list expiration date. You have a little flexibility but you can't expect your staff members to wait around forever when they are not pulling in an income.
Want to learn more about layoff referral deadlines and layoffs in general? Check out these guides: