Coping with COVID-19: Rehiring Employees After Workforce Reduction
When you begin to rehire employees after a COVID-19-related reduction in force, supporting workplace health and safety won’t be your only concern. You will also need to manage potential rehiring risks by conducting background screening for individuals returning to active employment.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 20 percent of US workers were laid off, furloughed, or began working reduced hours, according to the Federal Reserve. Since then, as states have reopened in stages, many employees have returned to work. Given their time away from the workplace, many will need to undergo background screening before resuming work. Here are some tips to help you efficiently rescreen your returning employees.
Key Considerations for Rehiring Employees During COVID-19
As business picks up and your organization needs to staff up, you have two choices: hire new talent or rehire former employees. For cost reasons alone, it may make more business sense to rehire existing employees than to hire brand new talent. The cost of recruiting, hiring, and training a new employee can range from $4,000-$7,500 or more, according to recent studies. If you make a bad hire, the costs to replace are even higher.
You may also want to begin rehiring employees for productivity reasons. Bringing back employees who have been laid off or furloughed may be able to help your organization resume business operations quicker. Rehires can hit the ground running and pick up where they left off with little need for training. On the other hand, new hires take longer to learn organizational culture and key processes on the job, which can cause a lag in productivity.
Rehiring your former employees requires advance consideration. Even if you decide to rehire rather than hire new talent, you will still need to manage hiring risk, including conducting background screening for returning employees. While rescreening may not be necessary for every situation, you will need to consider a range of circumstances to decide what makes sense for your organization. Examine the following factors to help you determine how to proceed:
- Industry: Employers in highly regulated industries such as transportation and healthcare have more stringent background screening requirements, making rescreening a matter of legal compliance.
- Job categories: Returning employees in high-risk job categories such as direct patient care and childcare may require more extensive rescreening services than other categories, such as office staff.
- Duration of time away from the job: Individuals returning to work after 60 or more days may need to be rescreened, while those away for less time may not. However, individuals working in healthcare may need to be rescreened regardless of their time away from the workplace, due to recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for consistent sanction monitoring.
- Changes in company policy: If your hiring or rehiring policies have changed, you may need to rescreen to stay aligned with changes in those policies. For example, a healthcare organization complying with Joint Commission guidelines for background screening needs to follow its internal background check policy as well as applicable laws. Not rescreening returning employees could violate your policies, which could potentially put your accreditation at risk.
The Importance of Rescreening Returning Employees
Just as you might rescreen employees returning from a paid leave, you should do the same for employees returning from a layoff or furlough. The reasons for doing so are the same as when you initially hired those employees—because you need to know about anything in your employees’ background which might present a risk in the workplace.
Rescreening returning employees doesn’t mean you need to follow the same background screening process you used when they were originally hired. When rehiring employees, you can leave out screening for certain parts of their background which haven’t changed, for example:
- Educational history
- Employment history and past employment references
- Previous names or addresses
However, when your employees were away from your workplace, they could have undertaken new employment or engaged in other behavior impacting their employment eligibility. Since there may be new developments in your employees’ backgrounds, it is advisable to include the following searches for rehires:
- New employment sanctions or exclusions
- Criminal records
- Any license activity, including license suspensions, revocations, or other disciplinary actions
- Evidence of any use of prohibited illegal substances posing a threat to physical safety in the workplace
You may also want to consider requiring COVID-19 testing for all employees in the workplace, regardless of whether they were previously laid off or furloughed. Employers are permitted by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to require COVID-19 testing for existing and returning employees as a matter of workplace safety.
How to Efficiently Rescreen Returning Employees
When you’re coming out of a COVID-19 workforce reduction, you want to get your employees back in their roles quickly so they can help your organization resume normal business operations. In addition to creating new guidelines for social distancing and sanitized work spaces, you will also need to support workplace safety by having an efficient process for rescreening your employees before they get back to work.
Even if you have a robust pre-employment background screening process, conducting rescreening for existing employees may be new to your organization. Nevertheless, you can establish a cost-effective rescreening process without causing undue delays or employee downtime. Here are some key actions you can take to build an efficient rescreening process for your returning employees.
Review and revise your existing policy
Your background screening policy describes all of your background check activities, including your background screening goals and the types of background checks you conduct. You will need to review your existing policy and revise it to include rescreening for returning employees. To cut down on guesswork when the time comes for employees to return, include the following components in your policy:
- The timeframe at which your organization will rescreen returning employees, for example, for absences longer than 30 days
- Which job categories will require rescreening
- Which background searches to include in rescreening
Involve key stakeholders
The decision to rescreen returning employees in the midst of COVID-19 can’t be taken lightly. As the pandemic continues, there are likely to be new laws and updated guidance from regulatory bodies, making it necessary to have the involvement of critical stakeholders. To help cover all the bases when crafting your rescreening policy and processes, be sure to include representatives from HR, legal, compliance, and your background screening partner.
Work with a reputable background screening provider
When rehiring employees after a layoff or furlough, the last thing you need is your background check company to offer the same exact services you use for new hires. Your returning employees aren’t new hires, and you want to avoid paying for services you don’t need.
A background check partner with expertise in offering solutions for a spectrum of organizations and industries can propose the ideal rescreening solution for you. As a result, you can manage workplace risks while also getting employees back to work quickly. When you work with a partner committed to helping you achieve value and quality in background rescreening, you can expect the following:
- Cost-effective, affordable background check pricing, absent some of the services you would use for brand new hires
- Efficient ordering options for individual or batch background check requests
- Turnaround times to allow you to get employees back to work
- Guidance to help you navigate new COVID-19 testing rules and requirements
Rehire Employees and Protect the Workplace
Returning employees to the workforce doesn’t have to mean introducing new risks to the workplace. You can incorporate rescreening activities into your existing background screening program without sacrificing efficiency, compliance, or quality.
With the help of a background check partner who prioritizes your needs and offers solutions to protect your workplace, you can reduce rehiring risks and safely welcome your employees back to work. For related tips and ideas, read our Guide to Auditing and Improving Your Background Screening Program.