You may soon begin thinking about calling employees who have been laid-off or furloughed back to work as your business picks back up. This process comes with a number of unique challenges for employers. Here are some things you can do to make the process as smooth as possible.

Give employees as much notice as possible of their expected date to return to work.

There are some things, such as childcare and work transit, that used to be easier before COVID-19. Now, because many schools and daycare centers are closed, parents may have to find alternative care arrangements if they are called back to work. If employees previously relied on mass transit to get to work, they may find it more difficult to get around, or may feel it is unsafe. Giving employees advance notice will give them the time they need to make some important decisions.

Provide information about the precautions the company plans to take to keep employees safe.

Have you made adjustments to the layout of your workspace to allow for more space between employees? Are you restricting public access to work areas? Do you have a plan for keeping the workspace clean? While OSHA has not issued COVID-19 specific regulations, employers must comply with the General Duty Clause 5(a)(1) that states that employers must provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Employers should make efforts to reduce the risk of worker exposure to COVID-19 in their workplace. Communicate these changes to employees to demonstrate your commitment to keeping them safe.

Help employees understand that a refusal to work could mean they may no longer qualify for unemployment.

Communicating clearly with employees is important. While the rules vary some state to state, here are some of the reasons that an employee may still qualify for unemployment, even if you offer work and they refuse.

  • The shift you offer to an employee is different than the shift they previously worked.
  • The pay you offer to an employee is lower than the pay they previously received.
  • The requirements/duties of the job are different than what the employee previously performed.

Here are some steps you can take to communicate an offer of work to employees:

  1. Contact the employee and let them know work is available and provide the date and time you would like them to return.
  2. If the employee responds that they do not want to return, find out the reason for the refusal. If they are unable to work due to a serious medical condition or concerns related to COVID-19 (including providing care to children whose school or place of care has been closed due to COVID 19), reach out to Helpside HR team for assistance.
  3. If not, you can ask the employee if they are choosing to voluntarily resign from their previous position. Having the employee complete a Voluntary Resignation Form at this time would be helpful.
  4. If the employee does not have a medical or COVID 19 related reason for refusing work and does not want to voluntarily resign, the refusal could be considered insubordination and grounds for involuntary termination.
  5. Employees in situation #3 and #4 above should be told that they need to report this offer of work and subsequent refusal on their weekly unemployment claim. This will likely disqualify them from receiving unemployment, unless the offer of work is substantially different from their previous arrangement with your company.

We encourage clients to be mindful of the unique time we are in with COVID-19. Getting creative with working arrangements may be necessary and beneficial to both employee and employer in some situations. Immediately moving through these three steps without carefully considering if other working arrangements are possible, is not recommended.

Contact Helpside

Helpside clients should notify the Helpside HR team ( if you offer work to any currently laid off employees and they refuse. Please provide us with the details of the job offer presented to the employee including:

  • the start date for offered work
  • full-time/part-time
  • pay rate
  • type of work/position
  • hours/shift
  • work location
  • conditions of the job.

Additionally, if an employee provided a Voluntary Resignation Form or any written communication resigning from their position, please send that to Helpside as well. This will allow our team to provide accurate information to the state about the employee’s change in status. The state will then determine if the employee still qualifies for unemployment.

Each company’s situation is going to look a little different. We encourage you to reach out to the Helpside HR team with questions.