What Is the Difference Between a RIF and a Layoff?

November 16, 2021

According to the August 2021 News Release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employee separations totaled 1.3 million in the U.S.

When your company is faced with separating employees, what options are available?

Your organization could proceed with layoffs, a reduction of force (RIF), furloughs, or a combination of the three. With each option, it’s important to plan carefully before proceeding.

Your plan should include not only how you will separate your workforce, but also what will happen next to the departing employees.

Will you provide support to help them with their career transition as part of their severance package?

What services are available to support separating employees such as outplacement services, and how will providing outplacement support benefit your company?

Let’s discuss in more detail how to best navigate employee separations.


Layoffs vs RIF – What Are They?

When a company must downsize its workforce, it will typically either layoff employees or undergo a RIF. Both scenarios have the same end result for the employee – a separation from the company that will require them to conduct a job search to fins a new position.

In both cases, the employee can receive unemployment benefits, if eligible.

Layoffs vs RIF – How Are They Different?

In the past, layoffs were thought of as a temporary separation due to a company’s downsizing or restructuring. In today’s world, especially since the upheaval of COVID-19, layoffs are seldom temporary anymore. Now, a temporary separation with the intention of a return to work is typically referred to as a “furlough.”

On a rare occasion, a laid-off employee may be called back to work, but it is unusual. In most cases, the separation is permanent and should be treated as such from the onset to enable an exiting employee to move forward.

A RIF is a permanent separation. A RIF is typically the result of a position or entire department being eliminated.

How will you handle your workforce reduction?

Your company’s human resources department should carefully review the qualification standards of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act early in the restructuring process. Also, consider requirements for any state laws. These may require your company to give advance notice to employees before the layoff.

You will need to identify any employees who will need a transitional period. Recognize that every layoff conversation will not be the same.

Some employees may need to stay on for a transitional period before their final layoff. To ease this situation, incentives are often employed by HR departments.

Severance packages are generally a standard practice.   The structure of severance agreements will depend on many factors such as the existing employee’s length of employment, their position within the organization, and the desired length of the transitional period.

Sometimes retaining key employees during a transitional period can even bring to light a need to keep certain employees. Realizing which employees are too valuable to lose can save your company a great deal in the long run.

However, most of the employees marked for layoff or reduction in force will be downsized as planned.

One of the ways you can support them is by providing them with outplacement services.

Through outplacement assistance, employees affected by the layoff or RIF can get help with things like resumé writing, job-search, or career-transition consulting. By helping your employees through this stage in their careers, you will help to maintain positive relationships for the future. You will also show them that you do care about their continued success.

Benefits Of Outplacement Services

The benefits of outplacement services to your company are many. And they begin with the fact that it’s simply the right thing to do for your employees.

Why is this a benefit? Because when a company is forced to downsize it hurts. It hurts the company as well as the employees.

That pain is felt throughout the company and, sometimes, even further than that. The world at large can tune in and pay attention to how your company handles the pain of downsizing.

Will your company wash its hands of its former employees and move on to the next project? Or will you appreciate the sacrifices your employees have made for your company? Will you do what you can to support them to their next position?

How important is your brand’s integrity?

Providing strong support through outplacement services can also help maintain and improve company morale. People talk, employees are friends, and that doesn’t stop when someone is laid off or is terminated. 

Employees who have been laid off or are the subject of reduction in force may apply for unemployment benefits. Offering outplacement services can save your company money in the long term. Outplacement helps employees return to work sooner, thus potentially lowering unemployment claims.

How Quest Outplacement Can Help

For over 20 years Quest Outplacement has helped displaced employees through their career transitions. We work with companies of all sizes and employees in any field.

According to the American Management Association and Institute for Corporate Productivity, U.S. employers spend an average of $3,589 per displaced employee. Comparatively, our programs are very affordable, starting at only $995 per displaced employee.

Our robust services include the following:

  • Personalized, one-on-one consultation time
  • a minimum of 3 months of support
  • an effective resume written by a professional resume writer
  • LinkedIn Profile support
  • a cover letter to highlight strengths
  • resume posting to the top online job sites
  • an online career assessment tool to provide career direction
  • a personalized salary report to aid in salary negotiations
  • access to a 24/7 online career portal

We understand that not every displaced employee will take advantage of outplacement services, despite how valuable they are. You will only be charged for the employees who engage in the program.

You will be provided with Notification Letters with which to inform displaced employees of the available outplacement service. Each Notification Letter can be personalized for each employee. We will follow up with them after their separation.

Next Steps

At Quest Outplacement we strive to provide the smoothest transition experience for every displaced employee. We’ve been proving our methods for over 20 years. We look forward to helping you next.

Contact us with any questions. Check out our brochure for a complete breakdown of our programs and pricing.


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