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Updated: May 1, 2024

How to recall employees after a furlough

Published By:

Erin Ellison

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When states began to reopen once the coronavirus pandemic began to subside, it was the first time some companies had experienced recalling employees after a furlough. If you’re in the midst of recalling furloughed workers and are unsure where to begin, it can feel like a heavy lift. In addition to our free recall letter template below, we’ve got answers to some key questions to make sure you get everything right.

When should I notify workers that we want to recall them?

In a furlough, workers are generally given unpaid leave with an expectation they’ll return at a later date or when work is available. Now that the time is here, you’ll want to give them some notice. We recommend that employers send all returning workers a letter or email at least one week before you expect them to report — and ask employees to verify via email or your employee portal that they will return on the date you need them.


This schedule should give them time to plan for childcare, commuting, and other necessities before they get back to the workplace. Many employees may find that their care centers remain closed or transit routes may be reduced, so some flexibility on expectations may be needed.

What if we don’t need every employee back right away?

Many businesses will have some employees who can continue to work from home effectively, while others will need to be on-site to get the job done. If you require that only some employees return, be sure to treat everyone with a similar job function the same way. And if there are any exceptions, be sure to document them. And that includes offering ADA exceptions for employees in protected classes.

What if some workers choose not to return?

Some workers may opt not to come back for a variety of reasons, including finding other employment, or needing to care for a family member at home. If you’ve made a good faith effort to rehire a worker, but that employee can’t or won’t come back, it’s a good idea to create a paper trail for your employee files — especially if you applied for PPP loan forgiveness and needed to have a track your headcount. Specifically, you should look to document:

  1. Your written offer to rehire the employee or return them to work (or restore reduced hours)
  2. That the offer was rejected by the employee (ideally also in writing or via email), and
  3. That you have informed your state unemployment insurance office within 30 days that the employee has rejected your offer of reemployment


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Do I need to complete new hire paperwork for returning workers?

If your employees were never separated from employment, that is, if it was a furlough and not a layoff, you should not need to complete new hire paperwork including a new I-9. In this case, documenting the furlough dates for their personnel file is sufficient. Significant changes, such as a new job title or pay rate, should be documented as well.


However, in some jurisdictions, a lengthy unpaid furlough may be seen as a separation from employment. Check with your local and state governments to see what they allow, what paperwork you need to plan for, and what documentation employees will need to bring on their first day back.


If it’s been months since your furloughed employees have worked, you may have the option to rerun background checks or request pre-employment drug testing — if your local jurisdiction allows. You should also check with your industry standards to see what is recommended or required.

Return to work notification template for employers

Here’s a template to use to prepare your letter or email to notify all returning workers.




[City, State, ZIP]



Dear [Employee name],


I hope this letter finds you safe and well. I’m pleased to notify you that [Company name] once again has work available, and we would like to recall you from furlough. We would like you to resume work on [date].


If you accept this offer of recall, the terms of your employment will be:


Job title: [Job title]

Supervisor: [Supervisor name]

Responsibilities will include but not be limited to: [Responsibilities or see attached job description]

Monthly salary or hourly wage: $[amount]

Employment classification: [full-time/part-time] and [exempt/nonexempt]

Optional: [This offer letter supersedes any previous offer letter or terms of employment. Please note that employment is at-will, meaning you are not guaranteed employment for any period of time, and either the Company or you can end the relationship at any time, with or without notice, and with or without cause.]


Your seniority will not be affected by this brief furlough period. Your benefits will [remain the same, be restored without condition, change in this way]. Your previously accrued but unused paid time off and sick leave [if applicable] will also be available upon your return [or adjusted in this way].


You must contact [name of the owner, manager, or supervisor] [via phone, email, or in writing] no later than [date] to confirm your receipt of this notice and your intention to return to work. Should you not respond nor not report to work on the day and time indicated above, we will consider that action as a refusal of recall and job abandonment.


Please know that we are committed to doing everything we can to maintain a safe and healthy workplace. This includes:


  • [Spell out the safety methods the company has put in place]
  • [For example: scheduled handwashing, frequent disinfection of surfaces, social distancing rules, reduced customer capacity, staggered shifts, or other measures as warranted by your city, state, or industry].


We are closely monitoring CDC and local health department information and will continue to make our best efforts to keep the workplace safe.


Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns about our current health and safety procedures or your personal safety, or if you need any type of assistance to be able to return to work.


We look forward to working with you again!



[Name of owner, manager, or company contact]

[Contact phone number and email]

If you have questions about how to maintain a healthy workplace, our infographic lays out the advice from the CDC. We’ve also created a return-to-work checklist and a guide to what you can ask your employees about their health that may help as you open back up. Or check out this video that answers even more questions about re-opening your business. We wish you every success as you get your business up and running again!


For more information about how to manage your payroll, HR, and benefits during the COVID-19 outbreak, please take a look at our COVID-19 Resource Center.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors for formal consultation.

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Erin Ellison is the former Content Marketing Manager for OnPay. She has more than 15 years of writing experience, is a former small business owner, and has managed payroll, scheduling, and HR for more than 75 employees. She lives and works in Atlanta.