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Layoff & Reduction
Planning & Implementation


Laying off staff can be one of the most difficult tasks you may face as a manager. Understanding how the layoff process works will prepare you for any layoffs that your unit must initiate regardless of the situation you face.

Your planning and communication will have a significant effect on the employees being laid off, the remaining staff, and on clients who work with your employees.

Layoff Definition

The term "layoff" has the following meanings:

  1. For regular, monthly-paid classified staff, layoff is the elimination of a position, the reduction of a position's per cent time, or a reduction of the number of months the position works annually due to a lack of work, a lack of funds and/or because of a reorganization.
  2. For regular, monthly-paid professional staff layoff is the elimination of a position due to a lack of work, a lack of funds and/or because of a reorganization. Reducing a professional staff position's per cent time or months worked per year are not subject to the layoff process.
(NOTE for SEIU 925 bargaining unit employees only: An increase in an employee's percent FTE can entitle the employee to layoff rights. Before increasing the percent time of an employee in an SEIU 925 bargaining unit, please contact your unit's Human Resources Consultant to review the process you need to follow.)

Layoff Process Summary

The basic steps in the layoff process are:

Employing unit responsibilities:

  1. Notify Human Resources of the need to administer one or more layoffs (see ACT below)
  2. Ensure that employees scheduled for layoff and all other staff and clients receive appropriate and timely communication about the layoffs
  3. Take any post layoff action that is necessary to either end appointments or to ensure that they are properly reduced in the UW payroll systems.

Human Resources Consultant responsibilities:

  1. Evaluate the reasons for layoff to be sure that they are consistent with employment program requirements.
  2. Assist department with planning and managing complex layoffs.
  3. Determine rehire list and/or bumping options for classified staff.
  4. Ensure that the layoff notice is properly prepared and signed by the official who has the delegated authority to do so (typically the dean or vice president or equivalent official, or that individual's designee).
  5. Ensure that the signed layoff notice is properly delivered to the employee.
  6. Determine, for classified staff, that the employee's layoff option selection is properly recorded and acted on.

Probationary Employees

Probationary classified employees do not have the layoff and reemployment rights that permanent classified staff do. If a probationary employee must be let go for reasons related to funding or departmental restructuring, Human Resources prepares a special notice that informs the employee that his/her position is being eliminated because the department can no longer sustain it. The employee may be eligible for unemployment compensation and for insurance continuation benefits.

Regularly Occurring Layoffs

As a heavily grant/contract-funded research institution with many self-sustaining programs, layoffs due to funding reductions or changes in research programs are regularly necessary. Such layoffs typically involve small numbers of employees who often know about the possibility of layoff well in advance of the time that the layoff action becomes necessary. Examples include situations where:

Complex Layoffs

Complex layoffs are characterized by one or more of the following:


Initiate a Layoff

For a "regularly occurring" type of layoff, complete and submit the "Request to Initiate Layoff Form" for each affected employee 8 to 10 weeks before the projected last day of employment. Your Human Resources Consultant will contact you to review the layoff process.

Refer employees to the information published on the Human Resources website about the layoff process. If employees do not have access to a computer, please print out the relevant web pages for them.

Initiating Complex Layoffs

Complex layoffs require advanced discussion with Human Resources and detailed planning. The Managing Complex Layoffs web page explains what is needed to initiate and process such layoffs.

Layoff Topics

Planning for layoffs as part of an organizational restructure? Find information on staffing, labor, and change management considerations.