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How not to panic in a redundancy situation – an employers’ guide

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Human Law Ezine - November 2009

How not to panic in a redundancy situation – an employers’ guide

Making staff redundant is never an easy process. Any business owner or manager having to let staff go faces similar issues of personal concern for the people involved coupled with the necessity to do what’s best for the business. Balancing the tricky emotional side of things with staying on the right side of the law is never easy but going into panic mode definitely won’t help.

This guide for employers provides advice on the how you can handle a redundancy situation with minimum disruption whilst demonstrating compassion and strong leadership skills

Firstly - stay calm. You may feel upset, angry or as though things are spiralling out of control but it’s important to try and approach any redundancy situation systematically. Treat it as any other management process; gather all the details you need, make decisions based on facts not emotions, communicate clearly with all concerned and follow a clearly articulated process to avoid confusion. If you can stay calm those around you are more likely to deal with the situation more effectively too.

Next, don’t feel guilty. If you are having to make job cuts your business is clearly going through a difficult time. Don’t blame yourself. You are not alone. Many firms and organisations are having to go through this process, including many household names like British Airways, BT and some of the largest law firms in the country.

As Phillip Hodson, a fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy says , “You aren't responsible for the vagaries of the western economic cycle. You didn't start the credit crunch in your own backyard."

Clearly one does not want to go through the process of making people redundant but sometimes making people redundant can ultimately be good for them. I know some people who have been made redundant who have got better jobs, used it as an opportunity to take time with their children or to set up their new business.

Be confident. If you are making people redundant certain staff are likely to give you a hard time. You shouldn’t allow pressure from staff or ill feeling to affect your decisions or the way you behave. It’s important to stay focused on the job at hand. The best way to be confident is to be prepared – have a plan, discuss your plan with other managers or an external coach or mentor or maybe your legal advisors. Rehearse what you will say in staff meetings and one to one situations. Preparing for all eventualities means you can’t be taken off guard and can act with knowledge and confidence.

Don’t be self absorbed. You will potentially be feeling under pressure yourself, to get everything done to a deadline, to handle individual difficulties and also keep your business going. But you’re not the only one who will feel stressed. It’s important to be aware how staff are feeling, whether they are under threat of redundancy or not. Many people don’t like change and when that change could potentially mean them losing their job they can react in an uncharacteristically hostile way. Have empathy. Look carefully at how each individual is reacting. This will help you anticipate future difficulties and allow you to tackle problems before they arise.

Keep communications channels open. Make sure staff are aware of any appeals process and make yourself available to listen to concerns.

Perhaps the most important things is to get things right – legally.

Any company planning to make 20 of more employees redundant in a 90 day period of less must follow a formal consultation process. Full details can be found on the Department for Innovation and Skills website.

Although smaller scale redundancies don’t fall under the same legal requirements companies should follow the same process of consultation with staff is my view . It is clearly best practice to have, to consider alternatives to redundancy and make clear the time frame and procedure to be followed.

Any redundancy selection process must be fair and open and you must certainly avoid any unfair selection criteria for example part-time status, pregnancy or maternity related reasons or sex, race, religious, disability or other personal factor.

Depending on their length of service employees made redundant may also be entitled to compensation, at a minimum level set in law.

If you are making redundancies you need to make sure you are aware of all your legal responsibilities and do not make mistakes in this regard. Taking the advice of an employment law expert at an early stage will of course help.

Making people redundant hardly ever pleasant but if you plan everything well, take advice when you need to and communicate clearly you can make the process less painful for all concerned.

Justin Patten is a mediator and employment law specialist and is often consulted by companies who are going through redundancies programmes. To talk to Justin about your redundancy concerns call 0844 800 3249 or email Justin.

Further reading:

Problem free redundancy programmes
Redundancy – to mediate or not to mediate, that is the question

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