As we enter the winter season, layoffs are a fact of life for many in the construction industry. For contractors who primarily work outdoors, such as paving, landscaping, outdoor concrete, and excavation contractors, work can come to a halt when cold weather hits—and stay that way until the snow melts and the ground thaws. Some contractors keep a skeleton crew of key people to do inside work and perform outside work as weather permits. Unfortunately, the reality for others is the next job may be months away.
Some people welcome and look forward to the time off. They head south, go ice fishing, or tune their snowmobiles for the first ride with friends. Others dread the time off. They worry about figuring out how to make ends meet and keeping up with their financial responsibilities. If you have worked in construction for some time and the layoff cycle is a way of life, I’m sure you have made your adjustments accordingly. On the other hand, if you are an employee who is not used to being laid off or an employer who is not used to having to lay off people, this can bring a lot of stress.
As an employer, you may want to seek legal counsel on how to properly handle a layoff. It is important to be concerned for their well-being, talk to them honestly, and treat them with respect. Consider the timing and place of the announcement—during work hours and at the workplace is best. Second-hand knowledge of layoffs should be avoided. Employees should be aware of a possible slowdown early so they can do some planning. Communicating with your staff may bring helpful suggestions on what the company can do for employees. You may offer to help review or update employees’ resumes and provide them with good references. It can also be helpful to put together a brochure with information about applying for unemployment. Let your employees know how much you appreciate them. Stay in contact and give them updates on upcoming work. When it is time to perform the layoff, do it as soon as possible.
As an employee, your options can be endless. File for unemployment benefits right away. If you have been working steadily for a while, you may want to take a break and relax on a vacation somewhere. This will help refuel your body and mind before you get back to business. Evaluate your timeline and financial situation. Taking advantage of the time off can be a great opportunity. What needs to be done around the house that you have been putting off? Would you like to take some educational classes to advance your skills or try something new? Have you wanted to start a workout program at the gym but haven’t had the time to commit to it? Remember, the time off is only temporary.
If you must get back to work for income purposes, stay “pleasantly persistent” with your employer if it is the company you want to work for long-term. You may want to consider performing small jobs on your own. If so, seek legal counsel before you start to ensure you are setting yourself up properly. After that, pick up some business cards and pass them out to everyone. Don’t forget to include family and friends—many people like to give their loved ones an opportunity to perform some work on their property—which can give you a great start. Social media is another great way to advertise.
Generally speaking, employers don’t want to lay off workers, and workers don’t want to be laid off. It’s not unusual for an employee to react negatively to the announcement of his or her layoff. Don’t let that affect your view of him or her as a good employee. It’s a stressful situation for everyone.
Let’s hope the layoff time is short, and we can all get back to what we do best.