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Turning to Your EAP During a Reduction in Force

1 Nov. 2017 Posted by aadams

Sabrina Lowe, FEI EAP Counselor

What does RIF stand for? I didn’t know until a few weeks ago when one of our FEI account managers approached me with an on-site service request for a network counselor with
RIF experience.

RIF is the acronym for “reduction in force,” synonymous with downsizing. Losing staff isn’t normally a topic anyone wants to discuss, for obvious reasons. A recent hire to the world of employee assistance programs (EAP), I wasn’t aware RIF experience was a skill we looked for when recruiting providers for our counseling network, or how to go about locating an affiliate versed in RIF situations. Its importance, however, cannot be understated.

RIF is unpleasant. Companies would likely avoid it if they could, but that’s not always possible. RIF is usually done after much planning and a review of company financials. Due to the emotional churn, it is beneficial for a company to request a skilled counselor be on-site to coordinate with the human resource representative, assist with the transition and answer questions throughout the reduction process.

For employees directly affected by a RIF, those who are essentially losing their jobs, it is recommended that someone with a sensitive and empathetic understanding be made available to help employees process the situation. This on-site counseling provider can assist exiting employees with questions like “When will I receive my last paycheck/severance package?”, “What happens to my benefits or my 401(k)?” or “Will I be able to use the company as a prior reference when seeking new employment?”

A counselor specializing in RIF will work with the employer to ensure employees do not take the situation personally. It also helps for employers and HR representatives to be clear about what, exactly, is taking placing: A layoff where there is a possibility of being rehired, or a downsizing wherein the employees being let go will need to find employment elsewhere. Understanding expectations will prevent added confusion for those facing unemployment.

Remaining staff will likely have questions, too. Depending on the company size and the number of employees being dismissed, there may be an entire workflow disruption. How will this impact their day-to-day duties? How much more work will they be responsible for now that a percentage of the workforce is leaving? Even if employees do not wish to utilize an on-site counselor to discuss these topics, it’s reassuring to know the resource is available.

Having providers in the FEI counseling network that are experienced with reduction in force is a great way to serve our clients’ needs. The next time an account manager comes to me with a RIF request, I’ll be prepared to find the right provider to fill this crucial role.


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