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How to Hire and Terminate Employees During COVID-19

It was already a challenge to ensure the necessary pieces were in place when bringing on a new employee or terminating an existing employee. Both situations are typically bursting with uncertainty and time sensitivity. Now add to that the current emergency due to COVID-19, where you have large swaths of employees working from home. Many companies are struggling to accomplish the tasks of both hiring and terminating employees in this new remote work situation. Our Business Outsourcing Solutions team is getting asked questions about best practices and how to avoid pitfalls.

Here is a checklist of items to keep in mind when hiring and terminating employees during the current emergency. Following these standards will go a long way in keeping your company compliant, and if done correctly, will leave your employees feeling supported. Most companies have the technology to adapt to this new reality, and you can make both hiring and terminating happen the right way, with a little thought and planning.


Hiring

Making a great first impression with your new employee is critically important and assists in making them feel welcome and most likely want to stay with your company long term. Managing this process remotely can work, even though it might feel awkward at first. In addition, when all of your new hire paperwork is in order, it assists in keeping your company compliant and in a low-risk category when it comes to audits and scrutiny from government agencies.


Communication

It is critical to keep the lines of communication open and flowing for a smooth “virtual” transition. From phone calls and emails to video conferencing, we recommend you use every virtual tool you have at this time. If people feel connected, it doesn’t matter if they are in your office or not, they will be happy and engaged.


Critical Documents

Getting and keeping the paperwork in order for newly hired employees is important now and for the future. We recommend having an electronic document signing system — it will help to facilitate getting documents signed and processed quickly and securely.

  • Offer letter — Get it signed by the employee and hiring manager via the document signing service or have them sign and scan.
  • I-9 — Complete the form within 3 days of the employee starting; review the employee’s current identification documents.
    • Before COVID-19: Documents had to be inspected in person by a company representative.
    • Current Emergency Plan: Documents may be inspected via email or fax.
    • After COVID-19: Documents must be inspected in person by a company representative after the emergency order is lifted.
  • W-4 — Have the employee complete and sign via the document signing service or sign and scan.
  • Payroll — Obtain new employee personal information and add the employee to the payroll system.
  • Equipment — Mail all necessary equipment to the employee.

Termination – Voluntary & Involuntary

Terminating an employee is difficult for an employer whether it is performance-related or not. Making this transition as smooth as possible is the goal now more than ever, as anxiety is running high. Handling the termination (voluntary or involuntary) with a plan is critical in ensuring your employee leaves your organization with a good experience, as well as their dignity.


Communication

Decide how you want to communicate with the employee for the termination. We recommend a virtual meeting via a video call or a phone call with the employee. Do not terminate an employee via email or text message.

Also, decide who will speak with the employee. We recommend that both the manager and an HR representative be present. Have a script of what you are going to say during the conversation. We recommend preparing what you are going to say ahead of time to ensure the conversation is smooth and concise.


Critical Documents

There are rules for each state regarding required documentation for an employee during termination. These are the critical documents you need to either give the employee or have signed.

  • Final wages - Know the rules in your specific state regarding final wage payment timing (check your state laws for guidance).
    • In California, involuntary termination wages must be paid on the same day and voluntary termination wages can be paid within 72 hours if the employee quits with no notice.
  • Benefits - Tell the employee when their medical, dental and vision benefits will end.
  • Severance (not mandatory) - Have the agreement prepared and tell the employee when they can expect both the document and payment.
  • Unemployment Information - Give the employee website links and state pamphlets to sign up for unemployment benefits.
  • IT - Let your IT team know about the termination and how you plan to get your equipment back.
  • Follow-up - Give the employee your contact information and send an email the next day to ensure they have everything they need or answer any questions they may have.

We are forging a new path of communication with the majority of workers at home in recent weeks. With some planning, you can make it work successfully.

For the latest regulatory updates and other information on how to keep your business running through disruption, visit our COVID-19 Resource Center.

April 02, 2020

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