Should You Rehire Former Employees?

Not all good employees that you hire last forever. There are many different reasons why someone could work for you for a time and decide to leave. But does that mean you’ll never see them again? The relationship doesn’t have to be severed just because an employee went on to do other things. But should you rehire former employees?

We vote yes. But, make sure the circumstances are right.

Boomerang Employees

Sometimes called boomerang employees, alumni employees or comeback kids, a rehired former employee is someone that has left an organization without burning any bridges. They are the employees that devastate you when they turn in a two week notice. The folks who you try to negotiate higher pay with before they leave for the last time.

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They had an opportunity outside of your company that they couldn’t refuse. Or they had to take care of a child or an ailing family member. Maybe they moved for a brief period, they were laid off, or retired briefly before learning that it wasn’t something they wanted to do. Regardless of the situation, they were a valued member of your staff and a quality employee that left.

And now they’re looking to come back.

Tips to Rehire Former Employees

Before You Rehire Former Employees

Clearly define eligibility for rehire after a separation from service  in the on-boarding materials. Employees should be well aware from the beginning of what you expect from them going forward and this includes rehire eligibility. This will help you avoid confusion in the future if a fired employee tries to seek employment with you again.

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The rehire policy should also be outlined in the exiting employee paperwork and should be discussed with the employee.

General Rehire Policy has an employee rehire policy template available online. According to that policy, the only leaving conditions that a former employee would be eligible for rehire for most companies would be the following:

  1. Voluntary resignation. The employee quit working for your company for one reason or another, then followed through with the agreed upon notice time as her position was filled.
  2. Company lay-offs. Business can ebb and flow. When the company must restructure, higher-ups may determine that the position that the employee filled was no longer necessary. That doesn’t mean that this former employee won’t be qualified for a new position.
  3. Expired contract. Maybe you couldn’t come to an agreement when it came time to renew the contract. Or, maybe their services briefly weren’t needed.
  4. Termination for reasons other than illegal or unethical behavior.

According to this template, those who have parted ways with the company would be eligible for rehire after a minimum period of four months. This excludes those who had contracts expire, who can renew immediately.

The rehire would also only be considered if they completed a probationary period when they were hired and performed well without any disciplinary measures while they worked for the company.

Tailor as You See Fit

This is just a template. There may be significant offenses that are important not to make in your specific small business that you would like to outline in your termination policy. You should not feel obligated to rehire toxic employees, lazy employees or those who contributed to your work-related stress. Consider behaviors that would be absolutely unacceptable to repeat. You can include those as reasons for ineligibility for rehire in your small business’s policy as well.

Once You Have Guidelines in Place

Stick to these guidelines. Don’t make exceptions. It’s important to have a policy in place because there will be employees that will make you want to make exceptions. It’s easy to get personally attached when you work with someone frequently. But just because you establish a deep friendship with someone doesn’t mean that they’re a good fit for your company.

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Some may reconsider rehiring a former employee who doesn’t meet all of the eligibility requirements outlined in the policy if a long time has passed. Ultimately, that’s up to you as a business owner. Use your discretion and be aware that the same issues can come up.

Keeping in Touch

You may be wondering how you can rehire former employees. Even if you discussed the rehire policy in detail upon their exit, the former employee may not rush back to your place of employment right away. That’s why it’s important for the business owner to take the initiative, keep in contact and maintain the relationship with the former employee.

We advise you to stay in touch with an employee who left on good terms. A good practice is to send an email every six (6) months to check on how they are doing personally and professionally.

Some larger organizations use Facebook groups to stay in contact with former employees. For a small business, you may want to take a more personable approach. This is up to your discretion, of course.

Great employees won’t always stay with your small business forever, and that’s okay. But, if you maintain the relationship you increase the likelihood that your paths will cross again.

Upon Rehire

Rehired employees should still receive a great on-boarding experience. Even if that means training the employee a second time. The amount of training that they will require may depend on the amount of time that has passed since they last worked with your company.

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Sometimes they may just need a partial training or a refresher course. In some cases, they may just need an update! You’ll be able to determine that on a case-by-case basis, but it would benefit you to have a policy in place. That way, you won’t have gray area.

Service Restoration

You’ll need to determine which benefits the rehired employee will be eligible for and if they will have seniority. On Society for Human Resource Management’s website, they have have the following recommendations for service restoration rules of eligible employees.

Hiring Policy: Rehire Eligibility and Service Recognition

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Benefits of Rehiring Former Employees

Prior Knowledge

Former employees know your business well. Depending on how long they worked for you, they could even know your company better than any other person on your current staff. Potentially they will bring a perspective to your team that a brand new hire could not.

Lower Recruiting Efforts

Recruiting employees is a costly and time consuming task. You have to find good employees through the correct channels, sort through resumes, and then hire them. If you know you need additional staff, the likelihood that you have extra time to do these tasks is slim. So either you’ll have to shell out the cash for a recruiter or spend your precious time recruiting a new employee.

Rehiring means you won’t have to look for a new gem with all of the personality traits that the position calls for.

Less Employee Training

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A brand new hire also needs significantly more training than an alumni employee would. There’s an inherent cost of training employees, too. You may have updated software, organized the office, or made some major infrastructure changes, but there is still a layer of knowledge about your business that won’t need to be taught. Ultimately, rehiring an alumni employee will save you time and money when it comes to employee training.

Fewer Risks

You don’t quite know what to expect when you hire a brand new person. Their resume, references, and background check may look good. But that doesn’t mean they’re well-suited for your company culture and work environment.

When you hire a new person, you’re putting some faith and trust into that person’s competency, work ethic, and their integrity. After you’ve already gotten to know an employee well, you know what to expect. You know that they are trustworthy and dependable.

Boost Morale

It was probably disappointing to lose this employee if they were a strong performer. Not just to you, but the whole team. Rehiring a former employee could boost morale twofold. First, the members of your team will be able to work with this person again. Second, those who have considered leaving your company will see that this employee returned. They may realize that the grass isn’t so green at a different place of business and continue to work hard for you.

Consequences of Rehiring Former Employees


Consider why the employee left to begin with. Were they getting along with the entire team? Or was there some source of conflict? It’s a possibility that one of the reasons that they left your company is that their personality or work style clashes with company culture.

Take a moment to look on the past behaviors of the former employee. If they had an issue with someone else on your team and you still employ that person, there could be a problem. Consider how this person’s personality and work ethic will effect those who have continued to work with you.


An additional consequence of rehiring former employees is that the rehired employee may expect a significant pay increase. The rehired employee will come to the table with prior knowledge and a decreased need for training, and they know this. They may assume that the additional benefits of hiring them, as listed above, are reasons enough for a higher pay rate. They’ll bet on you missing the contributions that they made to your business.

Hard Feelings

A former employee may harbor hard feelings if they were laid off or fired during their previous period of employment with your small business. They could be angry or resentful about what occurred in the past. There could also be lingering personnel issues. Consider the way that the current team will be impacted as well as how the rehire will respond to members that they’ve known previously.


If this former employee left your company once, they may do it again. Quick turnover is risk you take with any employee, but the risk is multiplied if a former employee has left after a short amount of time before.

Could Someone Fresh do it Better?

In some cases, a new employee could do the job you have available better than a former employee. They may have varied work and life experiences that can add value in ways that the rehire couldn’t. Ideas could be more innovative and they could bring a new perspective to the table. This will help you avoid groupthink.

Rehiring Former Employees at Apollo Answering Service

At Apollo Answering Service, we are known for company culture where the employees feel like a family and we often rehire former employees. We have done this for years and we have learned that it is important to stick to the rules. If they didn’t leave properly, we don’t rehire them, no matter how bad we need more staff. We’ve done this before and found that it makes things worse in the long run. Namely, don’t rehire if they were fired.

We’ve lost quite a bit of staff over attendance in the past. Because our business model relies on  virtual receptionists available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even on holidays, attendance is super important for our business.

In the past we would rehire if they were fired for bad attendance, in hope that they would have improved. You would think after a couple of years their attendance would improve, but it doesn’t. So we no longer rehire those with a reputation for poor attendance.

We’ve learned that the number one rule for hiring new employees and alumni employees alike is to ensure that you document any and all disciplinary issues and stick with all policies that you create. Once rules get bent, they don’t quite work the same anymore.

Apply this to your small business

You’ll notice that there’s a lot of ‘could’s and ‘may’s in this post. That’s simply because many things could happen depending on who the person is that you’re considering rehiring. There are benefits and there are risks to rehiring a former employee, just as there are benefits and risks to hiring anyone new. You’ll have to weight out whether or not this business practice is one that will surely benefit your team and your bottom line.

Now, try this…

If you’ve taken into consideration the pros and cons of rehiring former employees and you decide it’s too risky, no worries. We’ve got you covered with plenty of posts about hiring employees, screening their resumes, and small business advice in general. Subscribe to our blog to keep up with all things small business.