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DEAR REWORKER: IS THERE EVER A CASE FOR REHIRING SOMEONE YOU ONCE FIRED?

Dear ReWorker,
We had a long-term employee who was unreliable—coming in late, calling in sick often, leaving early—who we eventually fired. Now, three years later, he’s applied again. My boss says it’s better to hire him, as we won’t have to train. I’m hesitant to rehire someone who we fired in the first place. What do you think?
Sincerely,
Skeptical of Second Chances
_________________________________________________________________________
Dear Skeptical of Second Chances,
Let me get right to it. 
Rehiring people who you fired for poor performance, unreliability or cause? Probably not the best idea. 
This individual, in particular, was a long-term employee who repeatedly showed you who he was. You have no reason to believe that he’s changed. If you rehire him, chances are he’ll call in sick, come in late and leave early. (I am assuming that he didn’t call in sick, but “sick” and didn’t have a genuine disability or illness that would be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Family Medical Leave Act. If that’s the case, shame on you for firing him!). And you’ll likely want to fire him all over again.

Does rehiring former employees make sense?

Yes. It can make a lot of sense. Some companies even have alumni groups to encourage people to remain in contact and eventually rehire those people. You send your employees out into the world; they get training and experience elsewhere and can come back and contribute to your business on a higher level. It’s a great benefit to the company.
Rehiring people who you laid off for business reasons (not performance reasons) is also a great idea. You know what they can do, they know your business and it can be a great fit. If you’ve had layoffs in the past couple of years and need to hire, you can start by targeting these former employees. It can save you time in recruiting and training. 

But in your situation, why is rehiring this person a consideration?

I suspect that hiring might be difficult for your business right now. That’s not unusual, as unemployment is at record lows. Bringing on someone who you’ll want to fire in a few months isn’t a solution to that.  
What is the solution? Change. Check your salaries. Are you paying market rate? Do you need to bump them up? (Remember, don’t just increase wages for new hires, but for your current staff as well.) How does your PTO look? Do people have a sufficient amount of vacation and sick time? How is your health insurance? Does it compare to your competitors? 
I know you (probably) don’t have spare cash for all of this, and it’s easier just to hire this guy. But think of all the money you’ll spend managing him, coaching him, training and retraining him. Consider your overall turnover. Every new hire costs more than just their salary. You can save money in the long run by making your business a more attractive place to work now.

Are there times when you should consider rehiring someone you fired? 

Sure. For instance, the goof-off intern who is now 30 and has both experience and maturity is worth another shot. The person who was going through a terrible time in their personal life and explains how things are under control now? Sure. People can change.
But, as a general rule, rehire the people who left you or who you laid off—not the people you fired.
Sincerely, 

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