The layoff includes all processes to reduce overcapacity of the workforce at all levels of a company. There is overcapacity when the workforce is greater than the staffing requirement.

Definition / explanation

A layoff is primarily about reducing the number of employees when their manpower is only needed partially or not at all.

Es ist dabei aber nicht zwangsläufig notwendig, dass die Gesamtbelegschaft reduziert wird. Handelt es sich nur um partielle Überkapazitäten, werden meist Überstunden (zwangs-)abgebaut, die Arbeitszeiten verkürzt oder die Short-time work introduced.

If overcapacity is to be expected in the long term, jobs are usually cut. Employees who have left the company due to death or a change of job, for example, are not replaced, voluntary departure is promoted through bonuses offered, or redundancies are carried out.

Causes of layoffs

The causes for a layoff can be varied. This instrument is mainly used as a reaction to situational changes, for example in:

  • seasonal fluctuations
  • economic development
  • Rationalization of work processes through automation and mechanization
  • Mismanagement
  • structural changes due to relocation or abandonment
  • Reorganization or merging of different departments or companies

In addition, profit-oriented causes can lead to a layoff. This includes:

  • a hoped-for, mostly short-term, profit increase for the company
  • an increase in the value of listed companies

Measures in the event of staff being laid off

A layoff is associated with certain measures, which can be divided into five areas:

Corporate policy measures - Corporate policy measures aim to secure permanent jobs. Measures are taken to increase the company's long-term success and reduce existing overcapacities in the workforce.

In addition to cost reductions, this also includes subsidies, maintenance, repair and renovation work or the development of a new business area.

Personnel policy measures - Personnel policy measures, on the other hand, try to keep the disadvantages for companies and employees resulting from a release as low as possible.

These measures include making personnel more flexible through more mobility and multiple qualifications, building up fringe and permanent workforces or reorganizing the age structure of a company.

Qualitative measures - Qualitative measures relate to personnel development through training and further education opportunities. In contrast, the quantitative measures aim to reduce the workforce.

On the one hand, positive incentives are offered for leaving the company or reduced for staying with the company, for example through bonuses or cuts in social benefits.

This also includes early retirement, termination agreements or the expiry of fixed-term contracts.

Local measures - Local measures try to compensate for the excess capacity within a company. The prerequisite for this is, on the one hand, that there is a surplus in one area and an undersupply in another area and that the qualifications of these areas are relatively congruent.

The advantage of local measures is that the staff does not have to be reduced.

Temporal measures - Timing measures are aimed at adapting working hours, whereby the overcapacity can be compensated without reducing the number of employees. These measures include changing vacation arrangements, reducing overtime, overtime and short-time work, special shifts or reductions in working hours.

Personnel layoffs are employee dismissals

Layoffs are often used as a euphemism for layoffs and are therefore often criticized as discriminatory. Employer representatives in particular use this term to describe imminent layoffs in relation to their own staff or the public.


  • Personnel layoff is a reduction in the number of employees
  • Causes or reasons: seasonal fluctuations, economic development, rationalization of work processes
  • Measures differ according to company and personnel policy, quantity, quality, place, time
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Synonym für / Anderes Wort für

  • staff layoff

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