Dealing with redundancy

Sadly, redundancies are a fact of life in today’s workplace.  A lot of industries and sectors are downsizing, and the cuts often focus on countries with the highest employee costs, starting with France and Belgium.

Redundancy is never an easy process to undergo and is usually quite upsetting for the employee. Upon hearing that you’re being let go of your job because your company is being downsized or restructured, it’s understandable to feel shocked, panicked and scared. When we’re made redundant most of us feel fear, distress, helplessness and loneliness.

Today we will look at the process from the logistical and legal point of view.  In next week’s blog post, we’ll give you tips on how to turn your mindset and feelings around, to see the redundancy as an opportunity and not to let the fears overwhelm you.

Meanwhile, one essential tip to keep in mind:

Do your best not to take it personally: Please try to remember that it is normally the job that is being made redundant and not the person, and when it comes to finding new employment most prospective employers understand that redundancy, as a reason for dismissal, is not unusual, and do not see it as a negative.

Now some advice on how to best deal with redundancy – either by convincing your employer to keep you on or  to help get you the best severance terms:

1. If redundancies are on the cards, your employer must warn and consult you beforehand. Typically, this means they need to speak to you individually, explain what is happening and outline the reasons for redundancy, eg a fall in sales, and discuss it with you ‘meaningfully’. These conversations are your chance to explain how savings can be made elsewhere without job cuts, point out how important you are and how your job is crucial to the company.  Your managers are under a duty to consider this and respond to you. This is an opportunity to get them to change their mind when it comes to you and to others.

2. If you are a Union member, get your Union’s help and representation at meetings. A skilled Union representative can give you a boost and will support you in arguing for your job to be saved.

3. Ask to see the criteria for redundancy your employer may intend to use, raise any criticisms you may have, once you’ve been assessed ask for your own scores, check they are fair and, if not, challenge them. The basic idea here is that your employer cannot lawfully just choose who should stay and who should go without careful thought and the application of a fair process. For instance, if there are a number of employees doing the same type of work they should be ‘pooled’ together, objective non-discriminatory selection criteria (such as disciplinary record, performance, time keeping and so on) should be applied to all employees in the ‘pool’ and the criteria should be fairly assessed by managers.

4. Always check whether your employer has a contractual redundancy policy and, if so, insist they follow it. Such a policy may entitle you to enhanced redundancy payments or require your employer to follow a detailed redundancy process.

5. If the worst happens and you are selected for redundancy but you wish to stay, demand to see all current internal vacancies and also ask about any future vacancies that are expected, such as for maternity leave cover for a colleague. Your employer should check to see if there are any vacancies and make it possible for you to apply for them. If there are any vacancies, ask for copies of the job descriptions and written details about pay and work location as this way will you be able to decide whether you want to apply for the vacancy.

6. If selected for redundancy, you can also appeal against dismissal. You have a right to attend an appeal hearing, normally before a different and more senior manager, who should reconsider matters for you. This is a chance to persuade your employer to change its decision to dismiss you.

7. Remember that if your employer offers an alternative job to you, you can lose your right to statutory redundancy pay if an Employment Tribunal thinks that the alternative job was suitable and that you unreasonably refused it. Therefore, you need to have as much information as possible about what the new job involves and assess its suitability very carefully.

8. If redundancy is inevitable, do your best to negotiate a ‘severance’ package. Your employer may intend to pay only the minimum statutory redundancy pay and notice. Argue for them to improve this or, if they require you to work out your notice, try to get them to pay you your notice pay in lieu.

9. Always check your contract of employment, as it may contain limits on what you can do post-termination, such as preventing you from competing with your employer for 12 months. If so, ask your employer to drop these restrictions and if they agree, ask them to confirm it in writing.

10. If your employer is insolvent or becomes insolvent during the redundancy process, remember that some payments are guaranteed by the government, such as statutory redundancy pay, notice pay, holiday pay and so forth.

In the next blog post, we will give you pointers that will help you on your way to seeing redundancy not as the end, but as an opportunity for a new beginning. Remember, a balanced happy life and a (more?) fulfilling career are both possible post-redundancy.

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