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At Risk of Redundancy – Informing Employees

In our recent blogs, we have explored how employers may be able to avoid redundancies by saving employment costs in other ways, such as by asking employees to undertake alternative studies or change their working hours. However, unfortunately, there may be some occasions when it is necessary to reduce headcount, and during these economically uncertain times, there may not be many volunteers for voluntary redundancy.

As such, employers may find they need to inform employees that they are at risk of compulsory redundancy. This can be a time of worry, both for employees who are concerned about their future, and employers who want to do things right and treat people fairly.  In this blog, the View HR team set out their top tips for undertaking this important initial announcement.

Tip 1 – Undertake careful planning

When an employee is placed at risk of redundancy, they are likely to have a lot of questions (even if they don’t ask them).  Why is this happening?  When would I leave?  What will the process look like?  Will I get any redundancy pay?  Why me? It is important that employers undertake careful planning, which includes being clear on what the business needs (e.g. reduce the administration team from five to three), how you are going to achieve it (e.g. we will have to implement a selection criteria to select the employees who stay), and why (e.g. we need to achieve an annual cost saving of £40,000 to break even).  Many questions employees ask can be anticipated, and preparing an FAQs document can be reassuring to employees.

Tip 2 – Timescales

When you tell an employee that they are at risk of redundancy, you will be inviting them to their first consultation meeting to begin the formal consultation process.  Employees need time to be able to prepare for this, and if they want to be accompanied to make arrangements for that.  However, a long gap between being notified of redundancy and the initial consultation can significantly increase anxiety.  As such, a period of a few days or a week is ideal. You can always offer to hold the meeting sooner if an employee is feeling more anxious due to the delay.

Tip 3 – Sensitivity

Although redundancy may represent an opportunity for some people, many will be worried and upset by the news that they are at risk.  As such, it is appropriate to allow people a little time away from their duties to make a phone call, get a coffee, etc. after you have informed them they are at risk.  If possible, arrange the at risk announcement for later in an afternoon, so employees can be given the option of going home for the rest of the day.

It is also important to think about who is involved in the announcement.  Employers may deliver an at risk announcement to employees individually or as a group.  However, it would not be appropriate to call a meeting for all 100 staff, to notify a team of five that they are at risk and nobody else is! 

Tip 4 – Remember it is the job that is at risk

Redundancy is different to disciplinary or capability processes – people are placed at risk because of the job they do, not their performance within it.  Whilst this sadly doesn’t stop redundancy from having very personal consequences, you should still make it clear to employees that this is not personal, but is based on what the business needs.

Also, don’t forget that at this stage, no final decisions have been made – this is just the start of the process.  As such, you will use expressions such as “if your role is made redundant…”, rather than “when”.

Tip 5 – Don’t forget other team members

When you notify an employee that they are at risk, they will often seek support from their colleagues, and so the news will travel.  Other team members will then have questions:  “Am I at risk too?”, “What does this mean for my workload?”, etc.  As such, it is important to prepare answers to these questions to provide reassurance, and to regularly check in with people. Think about the communication to others, remember how you handle redundancies will be remembered by those you have to make redundant and those who stay, don’t forget your culture and fairness!

Next week’s blog will continue the theme of redundancy, and will set out the requirements for consulting with employees.  If you are an employer and are considering undertaking compulsory redundancies, please contact a member of the View HR for a discussion about your next steps.