The Unemployed Are Making More Money—How Do We Recruit Them?

business Coronavirus (COVID-19) HR IT Recruiting

For organizations that are still operating or are reopening now or soon, many are facing the need to bring new employees onboard—either they are a business that is facing higher demand during the pandemic (such as grocery stores and food delivery services) or they are now able to reopen after being shut down for a while, and they need to bring furloughed employees back or hire more employees.


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While recruiting in a time of high unemployment usually means employers get more responses to ads than they have time to sort through, this situation has a slightly different component: a federal bump to unemployment pay.

This means the current unemployment income might be higher than some individuals’ previous income. In this situation, some people might not be looking as seriously for work as they normally would after losing their job. This was, after all, part of the point of the extra unemployment income: to keep people at home instead of looking for work and potentially increasing the spread of the virus.

While most of these people still want gainful employment (after all, unemployment benefits are temporary), it makes it tougher to accept a role that will provide lower take-home pay than unemployment during this interim period.

It’s important to note that most will still take a job—it is, after all, the smarter long-term choice. It’s also important to note that, notwithstanding all of the above, in most places, it’s not legal to continue to collect unemployment while turning down legitimate opportunities for paid work; if an offer for work is made, unemployment eligibility usually ends.

Employees need to accept appropriate job offers, but employers may have a few hurdles they weren’t anticipating in the short term. For example:

  • Employers may not have as many applications as they anticipated given the current levels of unemployment.
  • Employers may have to offer a higher starting salary than before, despite high unemployment rates, because they’re competing with not only other employers but also higher unemployment benefits in the short term. Some employers are offering bonuses to combat this situation.
  • Employers may need to proactively tout their benefit package, which is a big selling point that unemployment income cannot compete with.
  • Despite needing to return to work, employees may have new needs, like child care that still is not available elsewhere or care for loved ones. This may mean employers have to be more flexible with working arrangements.
  • Employers may also need to provide more paid sick leave than they did in the past. In fact, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires it. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “The law requires employers with fewer than 500 workers to offer 80 hours of paid sick leave for caregiving at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay, capped at a maximum of $200 a day or $2,000 total, if the employee is unable to work or telework. Paid sick leave is also available for individuals experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, in quarantine or caring for an individual under quarantine.”
    • This also applies for extended time off required due to the closing of childcare facilities.
  • Employers may need to take extra precautions to reduce the chance employees returning to work will contract COVID-19. Many would-be employees are hesitant to return, regardless of income, due to the increased risk of returning to shared spaces.
  • Businesses may have to hire people who have less experience, as they are more likely to be new to the workforce and thus not making unemployment. This may mean more will need to be spent on training.
  • Furloughed workers may come back, but employers may have to deal with frustration over the situation and pent-up resentment, even though it’s not their fault.

Is your workplace reopening yet? Are you hiring or trying to bring back furloughed workers? What has your experience been?

Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.

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