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How to Write a Layoff Form (An HR Guide)

September 21, 2018 by Josh Hrala

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The layoff process is challenging for even the most seasoned HR leaders. However, you can make it a whole lot easier by having a layoff form on file that’s ready for whenever you need it.

What Is a Layoff Form?

In short, a layoff form – often called a layoff letter, or a layoff memo – is a notification letter that is sent out to members of the organization who are impacted by the event.

layoff form

A simple, easy-to-customize layoff form can be kept on file and updated when an event occurs, saving you time and frustration while also letting you focus on the bigger picture of the event, such as reviewing the event with you legal team or properly selecting the right candidates to meet your business goals.

Now, that that’s out of the way, what do you need to include in a layoff form?

Writing a Layoff Form: The Intro

The key to writing a layoff form is to remember to keep it simple. Remember that this letter is formatted exactly like a correspondence to a worker, despite the stressful subject matter involved.

So, the first thing you need to do is address the letter to who you are sending it to.

Next, you need to jump straight into the core message: that a layoff is happening that the person receiving the letter is impacted by the event.

Here’s how we recommend starting off the layoff form:

“Dear [Employee Name],

For the last several months, [Organization Name] has experienced financial difficulties due to economic changes within our industry. In the past years we have taken action to adapt to this new market with new product & processes. Unfortunately, this action has not resulted in increased profitability.

Due to this climate, we have come to the decision to eliminate positions within the organization. It is with deepest regret that I must notify you of your position being eliminated from the organization.”

As you can see, there is no flowery language here. There’s no small talk. It’s straight to the point. Nothing that you can say here will make the news that they have just received any easier to take.

Your employee will have questions and emotions running through their heads, but there is a time and place for those questions and concerns afterward in the layoff meeting.

Note: if you are wondering how to hold a layoff meeting, we have a full script that you can use at your organization to keep you on track. You read more about layoff scripts here or download ours now here:

Next, you need to move into the middle part of the letter.

Writing a Layoff Form: The Middle

The middle of the layoff form is all about benefits and how the person can find out more details about the event.

Again, just simply move from the first part to the second part. Don’t add in any personalization because that can make things worse or, at the very least, a bit more confusing for the person reading it.

Here’s how we recommend this section looks:

“Someone from Human Resources will call you to set up a meeting in the coming days to discuss this process and the overall implications. The HR representative will discuss with you your separation benefits. These benefits include the use of an outplacement service for assistance in finding a new position through resume writing and career counseling services. Please feel free to ask this HR representative any questions in relation to the position elimination.”

As you can see, this section is straight to the point hitting these key aspects of the news:

  • Who will reach out to the person
  • What will happen next (a meeting)
  • When will they learn about severance and outplacement
  • Who they can reach out to to ask more questions if they should choose to do so

It’s a small paragraph, but it has a lot of information inside!

You can also add in how severance works, too, if you have a policy on paper. For example, if severance pay is based on how long the employee was with the company, you can reiterate that policy in this letter. Just make sure you don’t end up explaining everything because that’s what the meeting is for and you don’t want to send the staff member a book – just a notification and brief explanation.

Writing a Layoff Form: Signing Off

Once this section is done, you are on the home stretch.

A layoff form doesn’t have to be a longwinded document that goes over every single corporate policy you have. Instead, it’s more of an alert that is used to get the ball rolling and headed to the meeting phase of the layoff process.

This section of the letter is super short. Really, you just want to thank the employee for all they have done at the organization and then sign off.

Again, it’s important to stay on task here. Don’t go on and on after you have explained what needs explained. You can simply end with a one sentence send off and then start to call those who are impacted by the event.

Here’s our sample:

“We appreciate all of the good work you have done during your employment.


Executive Name”

After that, you are ready to send out the letter.

As you can probably tell, our layoff form has sections for you to customize (the bracketed portions).

Using a Layoff Form: Tips

We always recommend that you keep a sample layoff form on file so you can easily use it.

However, it’s vital that you remember that there are various legal requirements that take place during a layoff event, meaning that one layoff form will not work across the board.

Work closely with you legal team to ensure that you are complying with all local, state, and federal laws during any RIF or layoff event.

Some legal things you need to consider when holding your event:

  • Do you need to comply to the WARN Act?
  • Is your layoff impacting workers in a protected class?
  • Are you following every guideline set out by the Older Workers Benefits Protection Act (OWBPA)?
  • Is your severance agreement legally binding?

These need to be addressed by your legal counsel to make sure you are all ready to go.

Afterward, you can craft the perfect layoff form using the sample provided here.

Still need to download our layoff form? Click below!

layoff form
Josh Hrala

Josh Hrala

Josh is an HR journalist and ghostwriter who's been covering outplacement and offboarding for over six years. Before pivoting to the HR world, he was a science journalist whose work can be found in Popular Science, ScienceAlert, The Huffington Post, Cracked, Modern Notion, and more.

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