How to Write a Temporary Layoff Letter (Plus a Downloadable Sample)

August 08, 2018 by Josh Hrala

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Announcing a RIF or layoff is something that is never easy. Even though layoffs are temporary events and RIFs are always permanent, they are both difficult to navigate, which is why communication is key. This is where having a temporary layoff letter on file is a great idea because it allows you to move through the process as easy as possible.

As a brief introduction, a temporary layoff letter is a document that you send to the staff members that are going to be impacted by your reduction event. The samples we are using here are meant to be customized before you send them out to make sure that they adhere to your corporate culture and brand.

Download our temporary layoff letter sample here. 

With that out of the way, let’s get into what you need to include in your temporary layoff letter (also known as a layoff memo or, simply, a layoff letter). Remember, the main difference between these letters is that the temporary layoff letter explicitly says that the event will be temporary even though all layoff events are technically temporary, despite how we talk about them.

Let’s dive in.

A Temporary Layoff Letter: How to Start

Like any letter, you need to start by addressing who you are talking to and also letting the person know who is sending the letter. All letters pretty much start off the same way – something like this:

“Date: [insert date]
[CEO or CHRO name]
[City, State, Zip]
Dear [first name]:”

From there, your temporary layoff letter should get right into the core message: that there is a layoff event happening and that the person who is receiving the letter is one of those impacted by the move.

We highly recommend that you keep this section of the layoff letter brief and to the point. Explain why the layoff is happening and keep moving forward. You’ll have far more time to discuss details in the layoff meeting, which will follow shortly after the notification. Learn more about how to conduct a layoff meeting here.

Here’s how this second part of the temporary layoff letter can look (note that the areas surrounded by brackets are where you need to insert your own details):

“I regret to inform you that due to [state reason for layoff: lack of work, financial hardship, etc], it is necessary for the department to temporarily reduce its staff.

You will be temporarily laid off effective [date], with a return to work date of [if date certain – must be no later than law requires in your state] OR [if date is unknown, state return date as the date the law requires in you state as effective date].

If this date changes, you will be given 14 calendar days notice of the new return to work date.”

This gets right down to it. No need to console the employee or try to make small talk. It’s important to make sure you hit the details and keep momentum moving.

This leads us to the next part of the letter: the middle.

A Temporary Layoff Letter: The Middle

The middle of a temporary layoff letter is pretty simple. You want to offer a way for the employee to learn more about the layoff and all of the details that surround them.

This includes linking or attaching documents that can help ease the person’s mind while also informing them of how these events work. Most people do not know much about the layoff process so you really need to give them the tools they need to succeed through this trying time.

Here’s how this section can look:

“You can read more about your rights under a temporary layoff here:

[Insert links to regulations and rights that apply]

There are important benefit considerations associated with a temporary layoff. Please review the materials listed below and take action before deadlines:

[Insert benefits, deadlines, and contact information where applicable].”

As you can see, you start by linking to your policy or policy overview that explains how temporary layoffs work at your organization. You can then provide benefits information, explaining how severance works, how outplacement works, and other various things.

The next thing you need to do is sign off, which is by far the easiest part of the letter.

A Temporary Layoff Letter: Signing Off

After all of this information, all that is left is to close off the letter just like any other.

Keep it short and simple, something like this:


[CEO or CHRO Signature]”

That should conclude your letter and allow you to send it off. However, you also have to make sure you handle the event in a legal way, which means checking in with your legal team, especially when you are letting go a group or have staff members that are over the age of 40 years old.

In fact, you will want to work closely with your legal team and your executive team over the course of the layoff event to make sure you are compliant with all local, state, and federal laws. Plus, working with management and having them sit in on layoff meetings is a great way to show the employee that they are valued and not just a number.

The Final Say

When it comes to writing a temporary layoff letter, you need to remember two things: one is to be extremely sympathetic to what your employee is going through. The second is to keep things short. Don’t try to console your employee in the letter, but have an open-door policy where they can come and chat.

Make sure you say what needs to be said. Could you imagine sending this letter and having the person not realize that they were being let go? That’d make for a weird conversation later.

Make sure you hit all of the major points: what’s happening, why it’s happening, say they are impacted, explain the next steps, close out. A layoff notice letter should just express the details of the reduction event and then set aside all of the other talk for the layoff meeting.

Want to learn more about temporary layoff letters? Download our sample here:

Download our temporary layoff letter sample here. 

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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