Boomerang Hires: Rehiring Ex-Employees—Should Employers Consider It?

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Should you re-employ ex-employees? This week has seen a cabinet reshuffle at No. 10 and even the return of an ex-prime minister. In this article, we look at the pros and cons of rehiring former employees, along with some of the legal implications to keep in mind.

What are the Pros to Rehiring Ex-Employees?

1) Cost

Ex-employees (assuming they haven’t been away from your business for an extended period) should be able to ‘hit the ground running’. When rehiring employees, they will need a bit of a refresher but generally won’t take as long to train and be inducted into the business as new starters. They may also be bringing with them new skills and additional training that you haven’t had to pay for but can reap the benefits from!

They are also familiar with the structure and culture of your organisation, and assuming they fit in well before they leave, the ex-employee should be able to slot back in after a break in employment service. This is especially good news if they have developed good working relationships with customers and colleagues alike.

2) Competitor Knowledge

Sometimes, the grass isn’t always greener, and the lure of a higher salary or more generous benefit packages isn’t always enough, and ex-employees can and often do regret their decision to jump ship.

As much as it often smarts a bit to see an employee go to a competitor, as long as bridges were not burned and non-compete clauses were not breached (see ‘cons’ section below), they may provide useful inside info as to what your competitors are up to.

3) Loyalty

As we’ve already touched upon, it can be difficult to lose a valued member of staff, but the truth is, employees do move around. However, when they return to an ex-employer, staff are more likely to stay for a longer period, which is good news for staff retention figures.

4) Boosts morale

Whether they have taken a career break, returned from travel, or perhaps been made redundant by their previous employer, employees like to see good staff return to the fold. This shows that ex-employees hold the company in high regard, and it also shows that their employer has a grown-up attitude towards rehiring ex-employees when they know it makes good business sense.

What are the Cons of Rehiring Ex-Employees?

1) Why did they leave in the first place?

There is nothing legally preventing an employer from rehiring an ex-employee, but the reason they left is an important factor. For example, would you re-hire an employee who was dismissed for gross misconduct or who walked out, leaving you high and dry?

If there was bad blood when they left, how sure are you that those past issues won’t resurface when they come back?

Make sure that an urgent need to fill a vacancy doesn’t lead to hasty recruitment decisions that you will later regret. When it comes to ex-employees, recruit on merit the way you would for any other position, and ask yourself: if they weren’t up to the job the first time around, unless they have shown they have gained valuable experience or skills in the time they have been away, it might be better to wait for the right candidate.

2) Continuity of service

If you intend to bring an ex-employee back after they have left, please keep in mind whether their reappointment may be classed as continuous service.

With certain exceptions, such as someone who is reinstated following a successful appeal to their dismissal or someone who is provided with an alternative role following a redundancy consultation, if an employee leaves and comes back, their continuity of service is broken.

If, however, they leave and come back within a short space of time, their previous employment may count towards their continuous service, so what constitutes a break in service?

Where there has been at least one week (measured from Sunday to Saturday) between the employee leaving and coming back, their service will generally be broken.

Please note that periods of absence, such as maternity leave or a sickness absence, do not count as a break in employment service.

3) Are they bringing any post-termination restrictions with them?

This doesn’t only apply to ex-employees but to recruitment in general. When an employee comes to you with a restrictive covenant, you need to ensure that their re-employment will not breach the terms of those restrictions.

What is a restrictive covenant? Restrictive covenants are agreements between the employer and the employee that usually focus on the employee’s activities after their employment ends.

Restrictive covenants usually restrict who an employee can work for, where they can work, and for how long. For example, a restrictive covenant may say that for a period of 6 months after leaving your employment, an employee cannot set up in direct competition with you or work for a competitor within a five-mile radius.

So, while there may be some benefits to an employee returning to the fold if they have worked for a competitor if they return to you with a restrictive covenant in tow, it is vital that you are aware of this and do not seek to encourage the employee to breach that agreement.

4) Readjusting to new reporting lines and organisational changes

There may have been some substantive changes to the business since your ex-employee was last employed. For example, their old reporting lines may have changed, and on their return, they may be required to report to someone who was once junior to them or was perhaps someone they didn’t get along very well with.

It’s important to ensure that the expectations of returning employees are met, especially if they are returning to work for you in a role that is not at the same level of seniority as their previous position.

Make sure they know what to expect so you don’t start off with a dispute!

5) Are you a stop-gap?

There is always a level of uncertainty regarding the reemployment of an ex-employee; after all, they left you once, so what’s to say they won’t do it again?

It’s important to remember that no employee pledges their entire career to one employer, so the key factor in re-hiring an ex-employee is to allow the quality of the appointment to be your guide. Chances are, if it’s good for business, it’s good for you!

Need advice?

When considering rehiring former employees, it’s important to think about the value and assets they can bring to your business today. However, proper procedures must be followed to avoid the potential detrimental costs that can impact your business.

If you need advice on rehiring former employees, you can count on our HR team. Contact us at Avensure for more information.

Click here: Avensure Contact!

At 2 a.m. on Sunday, October 29, the clocks go back by one hour. We explore any HR implications employers need to be prepared for and how the clocks going back affect staff.