As discussed in our earlier post (Re-engagement Issues – Classification & Benefits), businesses may lose employees for a variety of reasons and may wish to bring them back for the sheer convenience of having on board an experienced worker who can deliver much better than any new comer, especially at tasks which are complex or tasks that hardly allow for any innovation or variation. Taken in conjunction with the business need, a returning alumnus is always more than welcome and the haste to conclude matters and have the worker on board should not result in issues with classification or other regulatory compliance issues at a later date, creating unexpected hassles. In the previous post, we have discussed the possible issues with classifying the worker as an independent contractor and about negotiating benefits which are impractical and unviable.
Some other issues could crop up with returning alumni which include the issue of fair selection process for employment and protection for intellectual property rights.
All employers create a large paper trail for their recruitment and termination processes so as to justify the rationale behind hiring someone, and the rationale behind letting someone go. If that someone wishes to comeback as a full or part time employee, it would necessarily involve explanations which are plausible and justifiable. Establishing these would be possible through the various documents pertaining to these actions like severance or termination notices/agreements/waivers/releases/revocations/job descriptions and statistical analyses of the data to prove that the there was no bias against or for any demographic group. There may be a need to ensure that such data analysis does not prove to be false after the re-engagement takes place, leaving the door open to charges of discrimination by other employees, who remain terminated. Keeping synchronized records of all data which do not show contradictory stances on the same issue at a later date would be a mandatory part of re-engaging alumni.
Where the returning alumni are independent contractors having other clients tapping into their extensive industry-specific knowledge, the considerations of intellectual property rights raise their head – more so when the other clients of the contractor can be counted among one’s competitors. So, it is important at the outset to envisage this issue and put controls in place which provide reasonable confidentiality to protect one’s own data, information and processes through putting adequate agreements in place.
Some of the work handled by returning alumni might result in creating intellectual property at the workplace and there is a need to envisage this possibility at the time of drafting the agreement with the returning worker. In all cases, the importance of having a thorough and detailed approach to the various repercussions which may arise out of engaging an alumnus as a contractor cannot be gainsaid and the business must carefully weigh its options and get firmly convinced of the efficacy of taking this route before it does so.
As more companies go the alumni way, there is a concern that skilled employees on the verge of retirement will be holding on to their specialized knowledge as their ticket to getting re-hired and to enjoy continued employment. Companies today are trying to factor in this aspect when dealing with skilled employees on the verge of leaving the organization and establishing the processes ahead of time for the time they return as alumni.
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