Re-establish your commitment to those who were sidelined during the pandemic
COVID-19 relief legislation such as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act were implemented soon after the coronavirus outbreak was named a global pandemic. The hope was that the various programs contained within the legislation would help Americans and businesses weather the extreme measures that needed to be taken in order to minimize the number of positive virus cases.
Business leaders had to make difficult decisions relatively quickly—should they ride it out, furlough or terminate employees, or shut down their business? For those who decided to furlough their employees, it might now be possible to start bringing employees back to work.
Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness
One of the most popular programs to come from the CARES Act is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which offers small- and medium-sized-business owners the opportunity to use a potentially forgivable loan to rehire the employees they were forced to lay off or furlough starting February 15, 2020.
The forgivable aspect of the PPP loan is conditional upon how the loan dollars are spent. For example, if they are spent to pay employees the same salary and wages for the same number of hours the employees were accustomed to working before the pandemic, the loan could become eligible for full forgiveness.
Employers had until June 30, 2020, to bring employees back into the fold in order to qualify for loan forgiveness. Not every employee may be available or willing to accept an offer to return, however. For PPP loan forgiveness purposes, employers are required to make good faith, written offers to rehire employees. If an employee rejects the offer, it must be documented and saved by the employer if he or she intends to apply for loan forgiveness. This will serve as proof that a good-faith effort was made.
Creating the offer
When crafting an employment offer letter for furloughed or recently terminated employees, keep in mind that they may have found another stream of income during the separation from your company. This pandemic has led to a surge of side-hustles and your former employees might be enjoying their freelancing gigs or new businesses. A resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the U.S., particularly in the southern and western U.S., may also cause workers to reject offers to return to the workplace.
Your letter should not be a set of instructions. Instead, use this as an opportunity to thank your furloughed employees for their patience and reassure them that your company can provide a safe, stable environment upon their return, should they choose to rejoin your workforce.
Remain as transparent as possible. No matter how small, include the details if any terms of employment have changed (such as reduced hours). Keep in mind that any terms in this letter will supersede any previous terms of employment. Use caution when you get into the details of the position, responsibilities, salary/hours, supervisors, and exempt/nonexempt status.
If your furloughed employees decide to return to work, they will have questions about their benefits packages and paid time off allowances. Be proactive and include this information in the offer letter, along with any new safety procedures and protocol to promote a healthy, safe work environment.