What is a 'Zero Layoff Policy'

A zero layoff policy dictates that no employees shall be terminated as a result of business-based purposes dictated by the economy. This policy does not exempt termination as a result of poor performance or other violations of the employment contract, such as ethical lapses. Such policies are enacted in recognition that the welfare of employees should not be harmed due to economic factors that are out of their control. A zero layoffs policy may also be referred to as a "no layoffs policy."

Breaking Down 'Zero Layoff Policy'

A zero layoff policy means that an employer will do everything in its power to avoid terminating employees when the economy falls into a recession. This may include salary cuts, cuts to benefits, natural attrition, moving employees to part-time schedules or other cost-cutting means. A zero layoff policy runs contrary to the current habit of treating employees like free agents, almost devoid of any sense of loyalty on both sides. Such a policy is seen by some as a throwback to times of greater paternalism among employers. Having a zero layoff policy has a positive effect on employee morale, especially during rough economic times, as employees do not have to fear being unemployed. Companies that employ zero layoff policies frequently find themselves in lists of top places to work.

Zero Layoff Policy in Use

A zero layoff policy is especially evident in recessionary times, when most companies will cut headcount in order to improve their financial position. Companies that employ a zero layoff policy tend to treat employees like investments. They hire carefully and tend to train their employees to cover a variety of jobs. 

Zero Layoff Policy Examples

As of the beginning of 2017, the following companies have never laid off an employee. Some have been able to maintain a zero layoff policy due to steady growth and lean operating principles, as well as engendering a sense of teamwork among employees that makes occasional belt-tightening more palatable.

  • Southwest Airlines: The low-cost airline believes that its zero-layoff policy contributes to its winning attitude.
  • NuStar Energy: Despite the volatility of the energy industry, this San Antonio, Texas, company maintains a zero layoff policy.
  • The Container Store: Retail may have its vicissitudes, but this company has chosen to pay its employees higher than average hourly wages and forego layoffs.
  • Nucor: This steel company, in an industry that features low-cost competition from around the world, has grown since 2009 and has a no layoff policy.
  • Publix: This Southern grocery store chain is consistently ranked among the best places to work in America and features a zero layoff policy.
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